When you consider taking on an unpaid internship, the best way to justify all those hours of free labor is to think of the future. If you get experience now, you’ll be better qualified for the job you want later. But what happens when you realize that your internship is absolutely not what you want to do with your life?
Well, look at the positives. First of all, if you didn’t do any internships, it would have been your first job that you wound up hating. At that point, what if you can’t find another job or are scared to leave a steady supply of money and wind up settling? It’s much better to figure out what you want before you have a paid position.
More importantly, there’s no way you can spend a whole summer or semester interning and not come up with some relevant experience. It’s up to you to be creative on your résumé. If you spent all your time on the phone, you boosted your communication skills for sure—a plus in almost any position you could want in the future. Filed and made copies? You must be organized and efficient. Or maybe you had an awesome internship where there were plenty of hands on opportunities, but you decided you just weren’t in love with the work. If you had a fashion internship but you realize you really want to be an accountant, you just need to be even more resourceful with the way you present your experience to future employers. Think about what you learned and what skills you used. Under any circumstances, if you can say you worked well as part of a team or independently, or completed difficult tasks under pressure, you can show that you gained life experience in a crucial area.
As you gain experience and have to take certain positions off your résumé to keep it to one page, you can always take the unique expertise you gained and find a way to list it under your skills section. If a potential employer sees “styling models for a fashion show” in the skills section, they will know the most important part of your experience without you listing your internship elsewhere on your résumé. When they question this skill during your interview, be prepared to explain how that fashion internship makes you stand out and gives you an advantage over other students who want to become accountants. It just might be the edge you need to land a position!
Amanda Gallucci is a junior at Providence College in Rhode Island, studying English and Business. She is actively involved in Dance Club, Social Justice Advocacy, Student Alumni Association and is a member of NSCS. She hopes to one day land a marketing position in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @agalluch.