Why You Shouldn’t Feel Bad Turning Down an Internship

Words by Sophie, 22 WA You can find more of her work o

You can read more work from Sophie on her website or on Uni Junkee

There comes a time when you’ve passed the point of working for free and only getting a letter of recommendation for six months’ hard work. Yes, work experience is valuable, but here’s why in the long run doing heaps of internships actually sucks.

It’s Just Nice To Get Paid

It’s OK if your internship is one month or two — that’s fine. But when internships are advertised for SIX MONTHS without pay, it’s just plain cheeky of them. How can a uni student who usually has very little money to begin with, support themselves whilst working for FREE 9-5 every day for six months?? Is the work experience worth juggling the financial pressures of rent, food and transport? Probably not.

If you value your work and you are good at what you do, you should get what you’re owed.

It Might Be Illegal

Yep, your unpaid internship could actually be against the law. Internships that are covered by your university, and count towards your course load, are completely above board.

But if it’s not part of your degree, and you’re required to produce content for the business, or obligated to show up for a certain period of time, then it’s considered employment within the company. This means that you are entitled to the national minimum wage and the company is breaking the law.

It’s Unfair

There are some employers out there that definitely take advantage of the fact that students are happy to work for free in order to expand their resume. This means they’re happy to increase the time of the internship so they can continue to get free labour out of you.

Only decide to do an unpaid internship if you are sure that you will get a job within that company, or a similar company, upon completion. And since there really isn’t a way to guarantee that, unless your employer puts it in writing, then it’s a no-go.

Those whom can’t afford to work for free are at a real disadvantage. Some of us need to pay our rent so we have a roof over our heads!

You Deserve More

Don’t get me wrong, internships are a great foot in the door and on the ground experience can teach you a lot. But there comes a time when you need to remember that your time, effort and work is valuable. Whether you’re using your brain to think of ideas for a company, writing articles, or using your skills to design something they will get some use out of, doing it for free undervalues your skills.

We spend all this money on our tertiary education, we deserve to get paid for our skills and hard work. Don’t undersell yourself.

You Don’t Get Benefits

Apart from not getting paid, you also don’t have the same benefits as paid employees. This includes sick leave, annual leave and superannuation. Not exactly the ideal work environment.

The Bottom Line:

So if you’re umming and ahhing about whether or not to get more “work experience”, make sure the benefits outweigh the cons, know where you stand legally, and don’t underestimate your value to a potential employer, or to yourself.

Illustration by Aileen, you can find more of her work on Instagram @aileenetc

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