Tuesday, January 18, 2011

How To Find An Unpaid Internship

If you need experience and no one offers you paying work, find someone with unpaying work. I'm not talking about volunteering; you can do that at any nonprofit. What I'm talking about is a chance to go to school for free. Someone teaches you something, gives you a task, you work, and if you're lucky you learn something in the process.

To find a meaningful unpaid internship, find a person with too much work (they need help your help) without money to spend (they can't hire the help they need). This person should be a risk taker, because only a crazy person would trust an inexperienced worker (you) with anything meaningful. You want meaningful work, otherwise you're not learning much.

Entrepreneurs are great example of risk-taking busy people who are broke. There are an unlimited number of people with a great idea that needs help like yours to get off the ground. Not every entrepreneur can help you. On occasion people ask for a recruiting internship at Captain Recruiter, but I haven't been able to think of something a newbie could help out with. Most of my work is time sensitive in nature and requires at least a little training.

If I was seriously looking for an unpaid internship, here's what I'd do:
  • Talk with people who might hire you. The easier path is to meet them in person all at once. Organizations like SVASE hold events geared towards entrepreneurs. You could also call them via phone or go knocking on doors. The point is you need to have conversations with people who need you. Remember that your target mentor is busy and broke.

  • Introduce yourself to everyone while asking about internship possibilities. Something like... "Hi, my name is Michael. I'm a junior X and am looking for an internship doing X. Do you know of anyone who needs X done? I show up on time, I get it done, and I work cheap." You approach will be so memorable, I guarantee that someone will appreciate your drive and find a way to help you out.

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