How Long is Too Long at an Unpaid Internship? | Semi-Employed

Let’s talk unpaid internships. Whooo! What a trip! Working for free is a hell of a drug. I mean, you get all the amazing personal and professional growth that comes from holding a job, while plunging yourself into incredible debt! What a world.

At a time when an entry-level position requires 2-5 years of experience, internships are almost mandatory, and most are unpaid. Now, you can do the smart thing and do all of these internships while enrolled in college so that by the time you graduate you are eligible for a good paying job. But, if you’re like me and spent two years in the wrong major, spent a summer in a major depression, then worked your ass off to graduate in your new major within two years while working to pay for your living expenses, then you probably didn’t have the time, energy, or will to intern as a college student. So, the first position that I got in my desired field was an unpaid internship. And I am sTILL THERE! Still not paid, still looking for steady, paying work.

It has been almost eight months. I like the job, it is only two days a week, and I have learned a lot, but how long can you spend hanging around an unpaid internship before it’s weird? Don’t get me wrong, they keep hinting at potential payment, but I’m just not sure when/if that will be. Is it worth it to hang on to a job that may not have a real future? Or, is it a bad idea to cut ties to something that could have major potential down the line?

Within my first year post-grad, I snatched this semi-fulfilling, part time unpaid internship for a news media company in Manhattan. I won’t name it here because I still work there, and I would rather they not find this. To be honest with minimal detective work you could figure out who I am, what place I’m talking about, and where the office is, but I shouldn’t give you ideas. Anyway, I got this internship, and I thought that it was the beginning of the rest of my life. I was sure they would hire me for pay within two months, and if not I was out of there!

They didn’t hire me (and still haven’t) because they don’t really have the budget, like so many small companies that offer these internships, but I was addicted to this feeling of being needed. I like the idea of being on the ground, in the starting phases of something that could soon grow to epic proportions. I am no longer sure if the excitement of interning can sustain my willingness to stay in this position. I need a job! I need money! I owe thousands of dollars that I am nowhere near paying off! AAAAAHHHHH!!!

What should I do? Should I quit this internship? Should I stick it out? Will they ever pay me? Am I going to die poor and alone within the next few weeks like I fear?

 

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