How to Support Yourself (Financially) During an Unpaid Internship

The unpaid internship is basically the bane of everybody’s existence nowadays and financially lucrative for nobody outside the accounting departments wanting to save some money. That being said, they come with a yin and yang of sorts of whether or not they’re actually worth taking the financial risk of working for either academic credit or for hopes of experience, industry contacts, and more so, a job in our desired field. With all this, the unpaid internship is a hotly debated topic today. Is it legal slave labour? Or is it a necessary evil in order to break into insanely competitive industries that need 10 years experience for entry-level jobs?

If taken on when financially supporting yourself, you need to be aware of the necessities in order to make it work. Would the internship let you take on another job? How often do you need to go into the office for your assigned duties and for how many hours? Can you mentally handle the toll it will take on your psyche to work more than one job? And are you ready for the hustle to make it work? By no means am I trying to glorify the unpaid internship industry because it is not a necessary evil but perhaps an outdated one. But I am trying to shed a light on the necessary means it’ll take to make it not only happen but work for your life as well.

In general, internships can be great parts of your resume, resulting in needed experience to get the next bump in title or company role. But where it gets tough is when the only thing you’re getting reimbursed with is effort and experience. There are so many stories of people working anywhere from two to five jobs at the same time just to make ends meet and to cover the unpaid internship. All in hopes of chasing that dream we see as the deemed professional end goal. What happens to the people who have to work multiple jobs? Normally, they’re strained beyond belief and at their wits end, which ultimately affects work performance unfortunately.

But if you do have to support yourself during this time, what are some options to help offset the financial strain?

1. Work at a coffee shop nearby

Upside? You’ll be able to make sure you’re caffeinated. Plus, you’ll be able to network with customers or at least learn their drink order and see if they drop a business card in the tip jar while you’re striking up conversation.

2. Or a bookstore

You’ll be able to pick up books relevant to your career path or just general pick me up novels at a discount.

3. Ride sharing works too. Think Lyft or Uber

It’s a job that specifically works around your schedule and your needs. Plus, who knows who’ll need your services or whom they will be connected to. Ride sharing platforms are great for needed flexible schedule and help offset car payments at the same time.

While an unpaid internship is a serious gamble both professionally and financially, it can be a great asset to your future career. It can introduce you to necessary contacts as well as provide needed, relevant recommendations, and help pad your resume in order to be more marketable to a company if the internship doesn’t result in a job at the same company.

Best advice I have? Go in with both eyes wide open. Know your worth as well as your responsibilities and be prepared to work harder than you ever have before for only a grain-full of experience. And be prepared to have some great material at the end of it as well that you could potentially utilize in future interviews.

Dana Zillgitt

Having loved the written word as long as she can remember, Dana has written for I Am That Girl, Man of The Hour, and more. She’s far too comfortable on the open road and in airports. And she can be found on Instagram at honey.thyme or on Twitter at hazelnuthyme. She regularly uses one and tries to keep up with the other. If she’s not buried in a book, Dana can be found at the local coffeehouse, planning her next article or book chapter.