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The Hidden Value of an Unpaid Internship

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Completing an internship is something to rejoice over. As an intern, you were probably immediately asked to juggle multiple projects and tasks while having to quickly shuffle your feet to learn and understand the ins and outs of the company.

After patting yourself on the back for surviving your internship and eating a giant slice of goodbye cake with your coworkers, make sure you leave the office with the following helpful things:

A reference letter

After you’ve said your goodbyes and read your list of thank yous to your boss, don’t forget to ask for a reference letter before you pack up your desk and hit the door.

The letter should outline responsibilities you held and include special skills or characteristics your boss believes made you stand out and made you a stellar employee. Let your boss know what your future goals or plans are and see if they could potentially recommend you for what you’re aiming to do.

A summary of your accomplishments

The to-do list of an intern is often lengthy and filled with numerous responsibilities that help out many departments and people. While your most accomplished tasks are still floating fresh in your mind, jot them down and use them to flesh out your resume and cover letter later on. Though you might not have gotten paid, know that your hard work is worth a lot.

A network of contacts

Your former boss and group of coworkers likely have a rolodex of contacts in the industry you want to work in. Before leaving, establish a connection with your coworkers and stay in touch with them, whether through social media platforms or monthly coffee meetups. Your coworkers can be a resource and your best advocate when you’re looking to find a new internship position or a job.

An overall evaluation

Have a meeting with your boss or supervisor before you leave to receive feedback on how you did. Ask them to assess both your strengths and your weaknesses. What you were able to master will give you a strong indication of what you’re already able to do well and can be a focal point on your resume and a key topic to bring up during interviews.

The areas you need more work on can be things you spend more time learning or working on in future jobs or internships. Either way, it’s good to know where you stand after the testing months of an unpaid internship.

Jen Glantz is a New York City writer who is the brains and beauty behind the website www.thethingsilearnedfrom.com. Jen is a proud graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she received her B.A. in both Journalism and English.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

  • treptalks

    Internships are great. I had the chance, during my university, to find a couple of international internships where I could spend the summer in different countries. It was one of the best experiences of my life. Try to find internships that pay you even minimum wage because getting paid is much better than getting paid.

    One can be strategic to find internship at a company where they would be interested in working after graduation. It is a great way to build connections and it greatly increases your chances of getting a job after graduation at that company.

    Among other things, try to develop your interpersonal and communication skills as much as you can during your internship experiences. A large percentage of your success in personal and professional life depends on good people skills.

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