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How to Avoid the Dreaded Unpaid Internship by Finding Great Paid Ones

No one likes working for free. Here are some paid opportunities to boost your resume without breaking the bank.

It’s a common story: Last year, before I graduated college, I worked for a magazine as a full-time, unpaid summer intern. I lived with my parents, so I didn’t have to pay rent, but even without that expense, it was still a struggle for me, especially since the internship left me with no time to pick up another job on the side.. I had a few stories published in the magazine, which I was paid for, but there was no hourly rate or stipend. It was difficult and frustrating, often leaving me feeling less than fully appreciated and valued.

Many women have similar experiences to mine. Gwen Wu, for example, is a recent college graduate who found even a part-time unpaid internship stressful because balancing other jobs alongside it was difficult.

“I had very understanding editors who let me choose my hours and told me to prioritize my job because that was paid,” Wu said. “[But] it left me with this feeling that I wasn’t dedicating enough time to the internship or doing enough good work because I was constantly running off to the other two jobs that were paying me.”

An internship is an important stepping stone to life after college, and having experience is key to finding employment. But how can people afford to work without pay? People with low-incomes are effectively barred from being able to access this opportunity for learning and growth, because they need to be able to support themselves.

It’s tricky, which is why it is worth knowing the law on unpaid internships: the primary beneficiary test. Basically, according to the U.S. Department of Labor , employees of for-profit enterprises need to be paid, but not all interns are employees. For example, if a student is getting credit for an internship, they are not required to be paid. But to receive credit, a student still has to pay tuition on it, which can be expensive during the summer. However, if an intern is not getting credit or other educational benefits they should be paid. So, if you are being offered an internship that is unpaid, without academic credit or educational opportunity, you should question whether that is entirely legal. Unfortunately, companies can easily claim nearly any aspect of an internship is an “educational opportunity,” which makes it easy for them to get free labor thanks to the flexibility of the law.

Don’t want to work for no pay, but need some internship experience? We don’t blame you. We’ve compiled listings for you from InHerSight’s highly reviewed companies that offer internships, that are PAID. Go out and get them ladies. It’s internship season!

1. Internship with Clean Water Action in Oakland, California

Clean Water Action is rated 3.2 stars on our scale overall, and over 4/5 stars on equal opportunity and people you work with.

From one reviewer:

“Clean Water Action pays well for a non-profit, so that I can live comfortably, own a home, afford to take vacation, etc. That's not what I'm in this work for though — I feel empowered every day, have never felt unequal to my male counterparts, and have always felt that promotions, raises, etc were entirely based on merit. It feels great to work with like-minded, progressive co-workers every day, and be able to (be) myself at my job.”

Clean Water Action is looking for an intern at their Bay Area site, as well as other full and part time positions. Click here for the listing!

2. Hospitality Internship with Fairmont Hotels and Resorts in San Francisco, California

Fairmont Hotels is rated 3.4 stars on our scale overall, but over 4 stars on equal opportunity, management opportunities for women, female representation in leadership and employer responsiveness. They are looking for a paid intern. Here is their listing!

3. Various Internships with Penguin Random House in New York, NY

PRH is rated 3.4 stars, with over 4 stars for paid time off and management opportunities for women. From one reviewer: “PRH is a great company with great benefits and people.” Here is the listing for their internship program, which runs throughout the year.

4. Internship with McGraw Hill in New York, NY

McGraw Hill is rated 3.6 stars overall, but over 4 stars for management opportunities for women, paid time off, and family growth support.  Reviewers say top management can be a bit of a boys’ club, but that the rest of the company is very female friendly, and that the company just hired a female president. They are looking for an intern for their school education division in New York. Here is the listing.

Happy applying, and remember to check the ratings on InHerSight when applying to new jobs to be sure the company is female friendly!

By Casey O'Brien

Casey O'Brien is a journalist based, at the moment, in Oakland, California. She writes about environmental issues, feminism, travel, and politics, but most of her writing relates to social issues and problems. Her work can be found in various magazines, periodicals and websites. Instagram: @littlequesadilla

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