Businesses of all kinds are getting in on the unpaid internship boom. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this — as long as you’re aware of the risks. If you’re a small business owner reading this, you’re in luck, because I am too. Even the term “unpaid” can be a red flag, considering many unpaid internships do not meet the legal definition of an internship. Instead, they can often be referred to as “freelance jobs” or “work-for-the-cause” internships.
If you’re looking for work-at-home opportunities, or if you’re simply looking to dig deeper into one of the many industries that are booming right now, do not apply. But if you are open to working for free, here are a few things you should know.
Freelance work is only one type of unpaid internship
Unpaid internships are not the norm in every industry, and most companies won’t hire you for one. However, there are many industries that use unpaid internships as a way to fill positions. In these industries, an intern does not receive a salary but works under the direction of their college or high school classmate, often for a few months or a year.
If you’re unsure if you’re in the right field for an unpaid internship, check out our job postings for colleges and universities that use unpaid internships. Plenty of employers are in fields like computer science, business administration, and engineering — just to name a few.
Your business can’t get it verified
Even if you find a Intern in your industry who is willing to work for free, you’re still going to need to get the business owner on board. Because the business will not be able to verify that you are actually working for free internship, you will have to get the owner’s permission before you can start the process.
This can be a big red flag if the owner is reluctant to give it to you. You don’t have to put up a fight if the owner tells you no — in fact, you should totally respect their decision. You just need to find another way to get the job done, and quickly.
You have to be available and free for your own business
Most internships are designed to give the internship free access to the employer’s computer, phone, and email. But what if you have to work on a certain day or time? What if you have a certain schedule? What if you have a family or a 9-5 job?
Given those circumstances, it’s unlikely the owner will be able to give you access to their computer, phone, or email. Even if they do, you may not have the necessary skills or experience to complete the position.
This can be a major problem when companies are offering you a position that requires a certain level of expertise or requires you to start from scratch.
You have to demonstrate the value of your time
Besides being willing to work for free, another thing you’ll need to do is demonstrate the value of your time. You’ll want to show the employer that you’re worth their while, and that you’re worth the time and effort it takes to get the job done.
The best-case scenario is that the intern works for a month and then reports back to the employer. In that case, the employer will be glad they hired the intern, and you will be glad you spent time on your hobby or side project.
All of this may sound like a reasonable exchange for your time and effort, right?
You have to be a high school or college student
Unlike many jobs, internships do not require a high school degree. The internship requirement is usually a minimum of high school years, though some companies will require a GED or GED equivalent.
Some companies will also accept high school diplomas, while others will only accept GEDs. To be safe, you should check the requirements of your chosen industry.
However, you should be aware that the majority of internships will not require a high school education. The average requirement is a high school diploma or GED, and a majority of those who complete internships do not have a high school diploma.
Some companies ask for references, while others don’t
If your company asks for references, make sure they are legitimate. Make sure they have your correct contact information, and verify they are legitimate.
If they are legit, make sure they have your best interest at heart. Be sure they are following proper procedures, and ask them to get in touch with you if they have any questions.
Be prepared for some companies to check your references
If a company asks for references, be prepared for them to check your past employers’ files.
If your past employers ever had a bad opinion of you, or you ever heard a story about someone having a bad experience working for you, be sure to let the employer know.
Now that you know what to look for, let’s get started. First, you’ll want to make sure you’re in the right field for an unpaid internship. Next, you’ll want to find a reliable and trustworthy source for your information. You can get that from your high school or college directory, or even the IRS.
When you have your information, and have done your due diligence, it’s time to apply. Now, whether you’re ready or not, the competition is starting to get real. The best way to fight back is to put yourself in a position to succeed.