When you tell someone that you’ve decided to do an internship abroad people’s reactions are usually very positive and they’re quickly getting excited for you. Until you tell them that the internship is unpaid that is. Suddenly their face changes from happy to something more disappointed. And even once you’ve told them that you’re receiving a large sum of government funding to go towards your travel and accommodation costs, you still can’t help but notice slight confusion in people’s faces. “Why do you want to go and work for someone for free?” Is usually the first question followed by “Wouldn’t you rather spend your time earning money that you can spend on your favourite things after?”. “Don’t you feel used?” is another regular amongst the confused questions people tend to come out with. All valuable to be fair, however, there's a lot more than money to gain from internships.
Obviously it’s not to be underestimated how much can be achieved with money but we all know that there are many things in Life that can’t be bought. Specifically thinking about the competition you may face one day when you’ll be applying for your dream job, the one thing that will help you stand out is how much and what kind of experience you have. And experience is one thing that can only be gained over time.
Internships are a key gateway to gaining experiences. In anything really. Leaning on our work experience programmes taking place in London and Dublin it already starts with the preparation work you do before even coming here. You gain experience in organisation, in preparation, in practicing existing skills and identifying new skills that might be beneficial for you personally.
You experience the thrill of what could be compared to what will be. Usually what is tends to be different from what was expected but not necessarily in a bad way. If you stay open minded, different isn’t always bad. But even if it was a less desirable outcome than you’d hoped for, you still get to walk away with tons of valuable experiences that will eventually turn out to be useful for something else.
When you travel to a new country, you will need to adapt to many things at once. A foreign language, currency, different cultures and ways of being. A different understanding of punctuality or even just different ways of approaching delicate topics. Being able to adapt to new surroundings and situations is another form of experience that you need to let grow over time. Nobody is naturally able to adapt to every situation. Even if you are already good at it now, you will always find room to improve on it.
Motivation is key. When you go to work with your biggest motivation being the paycheck at the end of the month you may approach each day the same: “Let’s just get this job done so we can go home and wait for the money to come in”. If you do an unpaid internship however, you will want to get the most out of that job in all the many ways it can benefit you. You will be more willing to learn new things as well as to apply yourself. Because if you’re not going there to make new experiences, why else would you go there?
Gaining an insight into the branch you think you want to get into is presumably one of the most obvious experiences you’re going for. Often the reality is very different from our expectations but with the appropriate financial reward we can easily get side tracked. Spending time actively working in the branch we think we are interested in without being paid for it can very quickly identify whether we are truly cut out of the job or if it might be worth rethinking our strategy and turning our career path in a different direction. In the end your decision will be largely based on the branch specific experiences you gained during your internship.
Last but not least, when you’re doing an unpaid internship you have no hidden agenda which makes it easier for you to shine. Whether you’re trying to get extra work assignments or offering to stay behind in the evening to help your colleagues finish time sensitive projects, your manager and colleagues will quickly see your enthusiasm for the job and your willingness to help the team. This will make you stand out in a very positive way because they all know you’re not doing it for the money.
I could think of a million other reasons why unpaid internships are the way forward but I’d rather let you tell us when you’re back from your internship programme. So get involved, send us your experiences following your time in London or Dublin and help other students learn from your personal experience.
ADC College organises Internship Programmes in London and Dublin, eligible for funding from Erasmus+. Don't hesitate to contact us if you would like more information about what we do and how to get funding. Call a Country Manager today on +44 2084249424 or send a message to email@example.com.