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Unpaid internships: great experience builder or time waster?

It’s an adage we all know too well, you can’t get the job if you don’t have any experience, if you don’t get a job you can’t get experience.

According to a survey conducted by Savoo.co.uk, 85% of graduates would be willing to work as an unpaid intern to gain experience, most without the guarantee of a job at the end.

With the job market (especially for graduates) slowly recovering from the recession, having that bit of experience could make the difference between your ideal job and the dole cue. This level of competition between grads means that working for free could be the boost you need – as one said: “If you won’t work for free for a few months, there will always be others that will!”

But while experience is amazing and increasingly valuable, is it really worth a period of time that you could have been earning?

To help you decide if an internship is right for you, we’ve decided to lie out the pros and cons. Think about them carefully before you consider taking anything on.


  • You get to know your sector better! There’s no better way of deciding which path you want to take than a first-hand look.
  • Build the skills you’ll need to succeed in paid work and pad out that CV
  • Create links and network within your industry.
  • Working for free shows commitment to better yourself
  • For those of you looking to get into more specialised/competitive career paths, experience will open more doors.


  • Obviously – you aren’t getting paid. You’ll have to live and work (possibly travel) with the funds you have.
  • Because you’re an intern, you may not be doing exactly what you expect. With no experience you may not be doing everything your role requires.
  • As you can’t complete every aspect of the job you’re interning, there could be a lot of time waiting around for work you can do.
  • There is a lot of work involved to prove yourself, with none of the pay-off.
  • While interning, you have little or no time to earn a wage/save for the future.

For more about internships, choosing your job and following your dream career path, get your hands on a copy of The Graduate Guide 2014 – in stores now!