NEW YORK (TheStreet) — For most students and recent grads, internships are a necessary part of the path to success. Although all internships that offer relevant experience are good, paid internships may set students apart from the rest of the herd. According to an InternMatch survey, students with paid internships are three times more likely to get job offers than those with unpaid internships.
Why money matters
If you’re paid during your internship, it shows a higher level of commitment on both sides, says Janet Elkin, CEO of Supplemental Health Care.
“Although many people do very worthwhile unpaid internships, if you are paid it shows the employer thought enough of your work that they wanted to compensate you,” Elkin says.Additionally, hiring managers know companies attract better talent by “sweetening the pot” with money. Read More: Why Grads Should Keep Living Like They’re Still in College “We are starting to see more paid internships, companies competing for the best and brightest by offering compensation,” she says. “If you have a paid internship on your resume, then it shows that perhaps you were a cut above, or at least you were competing at that level where you had a choice between paid and unpaid.” Hiring managers generally feel a paid internship functions more like a “real job,” and therefore the candidate who has worked a paid internship is more comfortable with the demands of an effective workplace. “When a candidate has been compensated for their work, there is greater accountability on behalf of both the employee and the employer,” she says. “The company has to ensure they’re getting the most for their money, so that intern is probably not just getting coffee all day. They think, ‘I am paying this person, so we’d better be getting something out of this.’” Also, when the company takes the internship seriously, the intern is probably not as likely to take off at noon every Friday for the beach. They’re getting paid and clocking in and out just like they would at a real job, Elkin explains. Although one or two unpaid internships won’t hurt your resume, it’s not a great idea to take multiple unpaid gigs — especially if you’re a recent grad. Even though you’re gaining experience, it can result in a lack of respect from prospective employers. “When I talk to people who have been out of college for two years and have only gone from one unpaid internship to another, that’s a red flag. I know times are tough, but if you have gone on that long and no one is willing to pay you for your work, there’s a problem.” With that said, you shouldn’t turn down unpaid internships if you’ll be learning or doing something you’re passionate about, Elkin says. “It depends on what it is. If it’s your heart’s desire and somewhere you’ve always wanted to work, I wouldn’t turn that down. But if you have five unpaid internships in a row, whether unfairly or not, there’s a perception that it just wasn’t valuable for that company to pay you.” Whenever you have a choice, opt for the paid internship. “It sets the stage,” Elkin says. “Don’t let money dictate the experience, but all things being equal, go with paid whenever possible.”