Sarah Rathner NerdWallet.com
Each summer, students flood offices as unpaid interns, absorbing knowledge and looking for positive references while taking lunch orders and organizing storage lockers. But this reliance on unpaid work leaves behind students who cannot work for free. Between moving temporarily to another city, buying and maintaining office-appropriate clothing, and paying day-to-day costs, it can cost thousands of dollars to add a few lines to your resume.
According to Carlos Marc Vera, co-founder and CEO of Pay Our Interns, a nonprofit that fights to end unpaid internships across the country in all sectors, unpaid internships disproportionately harm certain populations. Women work more unpaid than men, and compared to white interns, black and Latino interns run debt more often during the internship. “It really creates this glass ceiling for people of color,” Vera says.
Vera, who is still paying off credit card debts he collected when he was an intern at the White House seven years ago, was inspired to launch Pay Our Interns after a conversation with a young college student who was skipping grocery shopping to afford dry cleaning during his internship. clothes. “I think this grind/hustle mentality is so ingrained, that you have to pay your dues,” Vera says. “It’s so daring to imagine how things could be.”
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Unfortunately, unpaid internships are still the norm. Perhaps a major resignation will inspire employers to pay interns for their work, as they should. But until then, if an unpaid internship will help you gain experience, here are some ways to ease the financial burden and reduce the amount you put on your credit card so you can get by.
Know your rightsThe U.S. Department of Labor has guidance on what constitutes unpaid legal training—your work cannot replace a salaried employee’s work, for example. If you suspect that your internship is being violated, you can file a complaint with the Ministry of Labor or a state employment agency. You may be entitled to a refund.
and specialtiesMany universities offer scholarships specifically for unpaid internships, depending on your school and major. You need to apply and funding is not guaranteed, but the effort can pay off.
You can also find paid opportunities through specialized programs created by nonprofit organizations and professional organizations. For example, aspiring Black and Latino financial planners can apply through the BLX Internship Program to be placed on a paid internship at a fee-only financial planning firm. According to Luis F. Rosa, certified financial planner and co-founder of BLX Internship, they put 38 applicants into training courses last year, and 20 of them received job offers.
unpaid fund“I would combine internships with other side gigs or part-time jobs,” says Mark Reyes, certified financial planner at Albert, a financial wellness app. “Depending on your training time commitment, you may be able to balance more than one job at a time.” However, he cautions, this can quickly lead to burnout.
Vera felt pressured as a student working part-time while training 20-30 hours a week. “I would sometimes fight not to sleep while doing the training,” he says.
The school plus two jobs a lot to deal with. To lighten the load, you can work for pay during the school year and save this money to cover the cost of summer training. Or limit unpaid work to a part-time schedule so you can also have time for paid work.
Among the paid jobsIf you need the profits from your paid job to fund tuition, living expenses, and other costs, it can be difficult to set aside some of that money to support yourself during an unpaid internship. But your paid job may actually provide an opportunity to learn beyond your actual role.
Rosa could not afford an unpaid internship as a student because he had contributed financially to his family. He found that he was able to create internships in some of his paid jobs, such as when he was working in a law firm and also asked to take some time to learn about the industry.
remote control The pandemic has turned many office jobs into completely remote jobs, and that’s good for interns who can’t spend the summer in a big, expensive city. With remote training, you’ll avoid paying for relocation, commuting costs, and work clothes. Additionally, having remote work experience on your resume will enhance your candidacy for a hypothetical position in the future.
You can use the money from your student loan for living expenses if you are doing an unpaid internship for college credit. Debt remains, but student loans charge lower interest rates than credit cards.
“People have misperceptions that all debt is bad, but student loans are there to add value to your life,” says Reyes. “It takes discipline and it is not for everyone. It is not free money, but it is cheaper debt than credit cards.”
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