Measuring the Value of Unpaid Internships

There’s been a lot of chatter lately surrounding unpaid internships and whether or not this type of “employment” is fair or not, and because I mentioned in my last blogpost that aspiring PR professionals should be “okay with working for free”, I feel obligated to express my own opinion on the issue.

Personally, I would only take on an unpaid internship under one of the two circumstances:

1. I would work full time – if this was during the schoolyear and I was earning a course credit. (Essentially, I would not be going to school, I would simply be going to this job and “learning” there.

2. I would work 1 (maybe 2 if I really liked the position) days a week for free, while going to school/working/participating in extracurriculars at the same time. (This is basically my life right now, as I volunteer at the HBSPCA in a position with many intern-like qualities).

As someone just entering the field, I think it is extremely important to remember that you are not entitled to simply getting a job because you have a particular degree, hence why I place such importance on building your portfolio in other ways. I’ve had enough conversations with industry professionals to know that these are the experiences that stand out to employers, thus students should keep in mind that, at one point or another, you’ll have to ‘pay your dues’.

But while this is true, I think students today are severely undervalued in the workforce, and it makes me a little uneasy – because let’s face it, we’re talented. And while people may try to tell you that “money isn’t everything”, I think it is completely unreasonable to ask someone to work 40 hours a week, for free. Especially if they’re contributing valuable work to your company.

So while it may be tempting to take on one of these roles, particularly if it’s located at a fairly desirable and/or glamorous company, ┬ámake sure you’re not selling your soul just to be able to list a name on your resume. As students, we’re often worth way more than we give ourselves credit for.

If you’re interested in reading more about the unpaid internship debate taking place in Canada right now, The Globe and Mail has been covering this issue extremely well.


So You Wanna Work in PR?

It’s that time of year again – the dreaded summer job search. I’m hoping most of you have mapped out your plans for the summer, but I know I’ve talked to a lot of people who are feeling frustrated with how difficult it is to find a summer job or internship in their field. And I’ll agree – it’s not easy, especially since it’s so hypercompetitive. I got really lucky last summer, and just sort of, unexpectedly fell into, my very first PR job at African Lion Safari. Since then, searching for PR employment has definitely gotten easier, so it just goes to show that all it takes is that one job.

But what happens when you’re struggling to even find that one?

You take matters into your own hands, duh! There are plenty of things you can do to gain related experience, and many employers see value in a person who tries to gain this experience elsewhere. So here’s how you start:

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Nail Your Summer Job Search

Let’s face it, the summer job search is really not fun for anyone. But I love the thought of finding a brand new summer opportunity, because it’s the perfect time to learn outside of the classroom while gaining new contacts and new resume material. Last year I was lucky enough to have a fairly successful job search, so I’ve raised the bar for myself this year – and you should too! Here are a few of my secrets for nailing the summer job search:

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