The Dreaded… UNPAID Internship

I had a conversation a friend about this as we were waiting to board our flight to London in December. She was beginning an unpaid internship in DC and I was preparing to accept an unpaid internship in California. We discussed the ideas that we had before graduating; how we dreamed that things would rather magically fall into place and that people would be knocking on our doors to hire us! Now that I’ve woken up and begun living in the real world once again, I realize that that was an incredibly fantastic notion. Of course there are the handful of individuals that had jobs lined up immediately, but many of my classmates (myself included) struggled to find paid jobs that were up our alley.

Finally, after months of applications and very few calls back, I faced the sad reality: it was time for me to accept an unpaid internship. Though I have quite a bit of work experience, my resume is limited to the corporate sector; my experience in non-profit administration is pretty much non-existent, and I could certainly expand my skills to make myself more marketable to NGOs. The organization that I am currently working with, Opening Doors, handles resettlement of refugees and victims of human trafficking and is giving me an awesome opportunity to work in a non-profit setting. Plus, I’ll (hopefully) be able to do some grant writing and gain skills on that front. While it’s a bit difficult to stomach the fact that it’s unpaid for two or so months, I’ve realized that there’s not a better alternative for me out there right now. While I could get a paid job doing administrative work, I want to work to pump up my CV and put myself in a better position for the jobs I want in the future. Reality check: doing more of the same (i.e. more work in the for-profit sector) will do little to make me a more competitive candidate. Plus, I find myself excited about this opportunity. After finishing my degree in Social Policy, I’ve desperately wanted to find an organization working towards a goal that I’m behind. In addition to working in the refugee resettlement unit, I’ll also be doing some volunteer English tutoring for refugees one night a week. This past year at LSE opened my eyes to so many new issues and realities and I’m excited to begin working in my field… even if it is unpaid.

Here’s to starting 2011 off right!


More about Shannon Kircher

Shannon Kircher is the founder and editor of The Wanderlust Effect. Founded in 2009, she has continued to document her international escapes as an expat in Europe and the Caribbean. Additionally, Shannon is the founder of Compass & Vine, a luxury boutique travel design firm, and is the Director of Marketing for the Frangipani Beach Resort. Shannon holds an MSc in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and is a current candidate for WSET Level 3 in Wines & Spirits.