Why You Should Apply For Unpaid Internships in South Africa

When most of us are job hunting or looking for university stipulated vacation work we are looking for a job that we will enjoy, learn something from and most importantly get paid to do. Unfortunately not all companies can afford to pay you for an internship instead they offer you valued work experience and you get a certificate to give to your university to prove you have worked at a company in your field of study or you get to put it on your cv to stand out from others with no work experience. What that company gets is a free helping hand to assist in their operation and growth.

Why some companies do not pay interns or pay them very little

Most people applying for internships have no real workplace experience so they have to be trained to do certain tasks and that takes time and resources from companies. So you can view an internship as them gifting you with skills you can use to get a job in that company once the internship is over or you can use the skills attained to get a paying job after.

The companies who do pay for internships often start with low salaries (if you call R2000 –R3000 a month a salary, more like a stipend), this is not enough for you to pay rent and buy your monthly groceries but I think it’s meant to cover your travel costs and lunch money in your internship period which is essentially a learnership.

What companies essentially want are skilled people capable of doing tasks assigned to them and excelling at them, people who are able to work in teams as you will often collaborate with others. These people who stand out and do more than what is required are the people who will get job offers from the company after the internship period. The internship period is the time to prove your worth. Hiring an unskilled person is like taking a gamble for companies, unproductive employees cost the company money. That is why some companies invest so much time in interviews so that they can find the right people for their company.

How do you benefit from an unpaid internship?

Unpaid internships are beneficial for people with a long term career goal in mind, they are the entrance level to unlocking your future career. If you have a certain position in mind in future you have to plan how to get there. Imagine searching for the perfect paying job the whole year without gaining any skills and experience during your unemployment period, that time would have been better spent doing a 3 to 6 month unpaid internship and possibly getting a paying position after that period, instead of earning nothing the whole year because you are waiting. In that period you would have gained essential skills to get a junior level position at another company looking for someone with your newly acquired skill set.

Think of it this way, would you rather have a degree but have no actual work skills and be a waiter, delivery guy or a receptionist for the next 5 years just because you get paid (not that much), or would you rather start from the bottom in your career of choice (that you actually have interest in) and work your way up gaining skill sets that increase your earning potential exponentially as you move up the ladder? I would choose the second option every time.

I know of people who do unpaid internships whilst working part time jobs (e.g. working at night clubs and bars at night time during weekends) to survive because they have their future planned. Going through life without a plan is a dangerous thing, learn to plan your future from now onwards, otherwise you will find yourself asking yourself what you have done with your life in 5 to 10 years’ time.

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This article was originally posted on SA Varsity Student