How Valuable is an Unpaid Internship?

How valuable is an unpaid Internship?

Unpaid Internships have taken a hammering in the press, with some high profile employers being shamed for exploiting their interns.  Of course there are a number of paid opportunities available to students and graduates, but not everyone is lucky enough to secure one! If you were offered an internship with an amazing company, but it only paid travel expenses – would you take it? I ask the question as someone who took an unpaid internship a few years ago! So just How valuable is an unpaid Internship?


After leaving University in 2009 I set out to try working in a few different sectors and explore career paths to try and find the right one for me. I even ran my own business teaching dance for two years which allowed me to make excellent money while working minimum hours. People thought I was crazy to give this up but I knew I wanted to do something else so I set out to get career experience in marketing.


I had always been passionate about fashion and after applying for a number of positions I was invited to interview for a ‘Press and Marketing’ Internship at French Connection in their offices in Camden, London. Needless to say I was over the moon! However you can’t exactly commute to London from Cheshire so the fact that it was unpaid was going to be a major problem for me. I took my savings from dance teaching to cover renting a room and general living costs and made the decision to go for it!


Forget about the money for a second – I learned so much in my time here and honestly believe it was one of the best experiences I could have had for my career. I had the opportunity to work on international fashion campaigns, events with major publications such as Vogue and Grazia and coordinate local marketing events amongst other exciting tasks. It was basically a girls dream. I met Fashion Journalists and senior members of the team and had the opportunity to learn from real industry experts. I learnt so much about campaign and print marketing and was able to work closely with the VM and Graphic Design Teams which gave me another layer of experience to add to my CV.


Don’t get me wrong the job was tough – I was basically doing a full-time job with only my Oyster Card paid for, but the experience I gained far outweighed the lack of salary. Oh and they had weekly sample sales – in my opinion getting a £200 dress for just £2 is better than a paycheque! Unfortunately when my internship came to an end there wasn’t a paid job role that they could offer me (no surprise when they receive 50 internship applications a day!) so I decided to head back up North and look to pursue marketing within a different sector.


I’m now working in a fantastic recruitment company using my skills for a wide mix of content and social media marketing, so my advice is if you are offered an internship, weigh up the costs and if you can afford to – take it! It will help you stand out from your competitors on your future CV as well as interviews, and if you’re really lucky it could even turn into a paid job opportunity!


Sophie Heaton (Digital Campaign Manager)


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