By: Raysha Duncan Purdue University Student and Peer Counselor
A lot of colleges at Purdue University emphasis the importance of internships, graduating with working experience, and how the experience will help sell YOU even more to future employers. Unpaid internships pay very little, are a growing trend in today’s economic environment, and can be one of the toughest truths to face about finding a killer internship. Not everyone will be able to find their dream internship and get paid for it.
It’s important to know when starting an unpaid internship that “unpaid interns cannot do any work that contributes to a company’s operations”; these internships are meant to be educational for the intern and are not meant to provide free labor for businesses. Financially, there are a lot of things to take into consideration when pursuing an internship: pay, cost of living, cost of transportation, potential moving costs, subletting your current place, validity of the internship… The list goes on and on. Looking at a huge list of to-dos can seem overwhelming and can make you question whether or not the internship is even worth it. But, luckily, if you give yourself enough time to plan ahead, finding the right internship is a breeze.
The simplest solution to your internship dilemma would be to find a local, or fairly local, company that is flexible enough and willing to fit the internship within your schedule. In this case, you won’t have to search for new housing or sublet your old housing or anything of that nature. This is an ideal internship situation from a financial standpoint. You may not be able to find your dream internship this way (commuting to New York City every week from West Lafayette Indiana is kind of impossible) but, you could still get a great internship, gain experience, and start to learn the ways of your trade, all while saving some money.
Another solution would be to start planning now for next year. This is necessary from a financial standpoint, especially if you know that your dream internship will not pay well. Saving is the most important step in preparing for an internship. Work a lot now and save what you earn in order to afford your dream internship. While flipping burgers or ringing up customers may not be what you want to do for the rest of your life, you can earn money while doing it and you can pick up extra shifts to score some spare cash.
You’ll also want to figure out your housing situation. If you’re renting now and your lease is continuing while you’re away, are you allowed to sublease? If you are, you should want to start advertising as soon as possible so you can line up your own housing near your internship. Also, if you have classmates who will be interning near the same location sharing a place can make rent more affordable and save you more money. You may have to start cutting corners during the school year to save, but it will all be worth it when you finally get to your dream company and start gaining real word experience.
A third solution would be to find an internship near your hometown. You’ll be home with your parents, but so what? You could live rent-free, have lessened commuting expenses, and still gain experience in a new position. However, finding an internship could be difficult to impossible depending on where you are from.
Lastly, there are virtual internships which are becoming increasingly popular and possible in today’s technological work force. These types of internships allow you to work from anywhere; you never have to set foot in the real office. Virtual internships allow students to work for a company from wherever. Because of advancements in technology, virtual internships are becoming more common and more practical.
Gaining experience in the work force and in your area of study is really important especially if you want real world working experience when you graduate with your degree, but it shouldn’t strain your wallet, either. Planning ahead, like with most things, can help save you a lot of stress and also a lot of money.
The process of even finding an internship can be difficult. Luckily, Purdue has a lot of great resources to help students as they search for internships.
The Purdue Center for Career Opportunities has a list of different categories of internships. The CCO is also a great resource in preparing for career fairs, writing resumes, and practicing interviewing skills.
Interns for Indiana works to provide students with opportunities in high-tech areas located in Indiana.
Purdue offers jobs and internship opportunities to students here on campus.
Good luck on your internship search!