“They Can’t Pay Me” and Other Myths Interns Believe

15 Apr

Dear interns,

        It is time for a wake-up call. Everything you do has value.

Credit: Jason Arias and Erin Perfect via TheDailyBeast.com

“They Can’t Pay Me” and Other Myths Interns Believe

Myth #1:  “They can’t pay me.”

Companies that offer unpaid internships still charge clients for the work that its interns do. The reality is most firms can pay you, they just choose not to. An article that appeared in Newsweek Magazine last year points out that in this business model, students are actually paying to work. (Check out the article for more on that topic.)

Now that I’ve burst your cushy, unpaid intern bubble, here are three more myths that you need to stop believing in order to get a paid internship:

Myth #2: “I don’t have any real experience to offer.”

I hear people say this all the time and it simply is not true. Assuming that you haven’t spent every day sitting in pajamas, clicking through Pinterest and posting “texts from last night” on Facebook, you probably have more skills than you realize. Have you served as the public relations chair for a student organization? Organized a fundraising event? How about that service learning project you did for class? You have gained valuable skills in the past few years of college and just aren’t showcasing them.

Remember how I said everything you do has value? It’s true. If you can show what your value is to a potential employer, you will land a paid internship. It’s all about taking what you know, what you have done and translating it into worth.

Example: “I was the internal social chair for my sorority. I arranged for food, decorations, transportation and entertainment for 150 guests with a $7,000 budget.” You not only show that you have event management skills, but you also tell potential employers that you know how to monitor and manage resources, all very important skills (especially in an agency where every quarter-hour you spend working on something is billed to the client).

Look at all the things you have done. I bet you have at least three solid experiences to offer on your resume that show some kind of valuable skill.

Myth #3: “They would never hire me because [Fill in blank].”

Woah, woah, woah. Not so fast! Are you sure they wouldn’t hire you? This myth can be busted by going back to the previous solution: Know your value. If you walk up to Company X and say “I have the skills you are looking for and I can help your company grow,” there is no way they are not at least going to hear you out. It’s about confidence and being sure of yourself (Read: Confidence, not cockiness). The fact is, you don’t know for sure that they wouldn’t hire you, so why not at least give it a try? Don’t disqualify your self for a paid internship before you even interview for the position.

Myth #4: “Everyone else is more qualified than me, so I will never get that job.”

If you ask 10 different companies what they look for in applicants, chances are you will get 10 different answers. Never discount what you can do just because you think someone else might be able to do it better. You would be surprised how many companies choose less qualified applicants because of their passion, personality, drive or creativity. In other words, it is not always the cut-and-dry “I know how to do this” that will get you the job. You have to believe that you are the best person for the position, and you need to tell the person interviewing you exactly why you are. Again, it’s about knowing what your value is. Be yourself, be confident in your abilities and never allow your doubts get in the way of an amazing opportunity.

I know it’s cliché, but “You never know until you try.”  Many of us don’t get paid internships simply because we don’t go after them. Accept nothing less and you will always come out with more than you thought you would.

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3 Responses to ““They Can’t Pay Me” and Other Myths Interns Believe”

  1. bonkasaurus April 15, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    Great post sam! I agree interns should be getting paid for their service to a company! But the reality is there are more unpaid than paid internships and when a company knows there are people who will do the work for free, they are going to pass over the person who is demanding he or she gets paid for their service. The day I find a paid internship will be one for the books, until I see a posting for one myself they will forever be a myth to me.

    • Samantha Afetian April 15, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

      They are out there! I haven’t had an unpaid internship since I came to State. You just have to ask around and get to know people working in the area. They are out there, and you are most definitely qualified for a paid position!

      • bonkasaurus April 15, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

        I definitely think I am! I curse the first person who ever accepted an unpaid internship….oh and the illegal immigrants that steal our jobs.

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