Take this job and restaff it
February 11, 2010 5:29 PM   Subscribe

I got offered this internship that I really don't want. Would I be foolish to turn it down anyway?

I applied and was accepted for an unpaid internship at a small non-profit. I would be devoting approximately ten hours a week, mostly from home, to various "public relations" tasks - drafting press releases, corresponding with media contacts, maintaining a presence on Facebook/Twitter, etc. The work is of no interest to me and the thought of accepting the position makes me feel really nervous - I anticipate finding the tasks burdensome and feeling obligated to stay on for the entire duration (several months.) In addition, since the position is very part-time, and I would be tele-commuting, I'm not sure if I could develop the kind of connections and relationships that would help me find a "real" job soon. Finally, I inquired about the prospect of long-term paid employment when the internship ends, and I was told it was very unlikely.

Why did I apply, then? Because I'm about to graduate, I wouldn't mind doing work in the non-profit sector (although I would like the work to be of a different nature), and most of my past work experience lies in assisting research projects for professors on a part-time basis - not something a lot of "real" employers seem too interested in.

Does turning down this internship represent a significat missed opportunity, or should I hold out for something that accords more with my interests?
posted by mellifluous to Work & Money (16 answers total)
If I were you, any work experience at all would be good to have on a resume. Especially since it's going to be a bitch to find real employment even if you had tons of experience.

I can't come up with a justifiable reason for you not to do it, especially since it's only ten freaking hours a week for a few months and you don't even have to go into an office. It's not going to suck the life out of you to do some typing.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:37 PM on February 11, 2010

I'd skip it. It doesn't seem like there are any concrete things that you'll be able to take away from this internship aside from frustration. Of course, you never know.... but if you're not at all into the work you probably won't do a great job and you'd likely be doing the non-profit a favor by allowing them to offer the internship to someone who was more invested in the work they're doing.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:37 PM on February 11, 2010

if you're dealing with PR tasks and the direct audience thereof, you could potentially be losing out of several contacts you could leverage later.

if you're not privy to the mailing list or contacts, then it's probably not much of a loss.
posted by patricking at 5:38 PM on February 11, 2010

Man, nonprofits need to pay their interns. I really don't understand why they can't find a minimal amount of money in their budget to pay a young person at entry-level, who could certainly use the money, a little bit in exchange for the work they do. It really speaks to what kind of regard they have for their own staff imho. Anyway, are you the kind of person who'd have an easier time finding a full-time job if part of your time was already accounted for - keeping busy helps you to get more done, overall? And it likely would be good experience to be able to do a variety of tasks like this, given that you've said your other experience doesn't translate well to the job market.

I'd be wary about the "10 hours a week" thing.. if there's only 10 hours a week of actual work, I wonder if that still entails, in their minds, being available to do that work whenever they need it, waiting for tasks to be given to you for 30-40 hours a week - so it will infringe on your time more than you'd think.
posted by citron at 5:45 PM on February 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

I say take it with the intention of making it more than what it initially seems. Is there a weekly staff meeting? Plan on attending. Are there board meetings, fundraisers, partner luncheons, networking events? Plan on going along. Does the organization run any volunteer programs? Volunteer.

I wouldn't mind doing work in the non-profit sector (although I would like the work to be of a different nature)

What kind of "work of a different nature"? Is there any opportunity to put yourself into a position where you will take on some of those types of responsibilities?

I'm not saying you should devote yourself full time to this internship. But, I would see it as a foot in the door; and, at most small nonprofits, everyone wears about 16 different hats - there's no reason that as a part time intern you can't wear a few more hats yourself.
posted by Think_Long at 5:45 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, look into Americorps. Especially Americorps VISTA if it's paid nonprofit work you want without any experience.
posted by Think_Long at 5:47 PM on February 11, 2010

Several months is nothing. If you're trying to get more experience beyond assisting professors with research, then this internship seems like it would let you branch out a little more, and maybe develop some new skills and gain some experience.

You don't mention what you're truly interested in, so there might be better opportunities out there for you. In that case, passing this by is no big deal. But if there's nothing else on the horizon, it might be a better choice to just go ahead and do it as a resume building activity. 10 hours/week isn't that much of a commitment, especially if you are telecommuting. Could you conceivably do the work at night or on the weekend, while pursuing something that interests you more during your weekdays?

From my own post-graduation experience (which wasn't that long ago), I would advise you to take any experience you can get. I wish I had done more internships while in school, but I only wound up doing one at the end. As for getting a "real" job, there might not be a job waiting for you at this non-profit, but it could open up doors for you or give you an advantage in applying for other jobs. You never really know where things will lead you.

I also wouldn't sweat it too much about missed opportunities. You will no doubt make mistakes like everyone else--don't waste time agonizing over every decision you ever made. Most people miss plenty of opportunities. It's okay. Other opportunities will come along.
posted by squawk at 5:52 PM on February 11, 2010

No pay, no chance of getting hired on, and not in a position you are interested in or need experience in? That's not an internship, that's volunteer work.
posted by indyz at 6:25 PM on February 11, 2010 [3 favorites]

Agreed with indyz. If you're not getting paid, then what's the difference between sitting at home and looking for paid work? If you take this "internship," you might be missing other opportunities. I would try to get some part-time paid work if you can't get full-time, and use your non-working time to look for better opportunities. Maybe only accept an unpaid internship if there was a good chance of it turning into paid work/having good networking opportunities/you being interested in the work.
posted by foxjacket at 6:40 PM on February 11, 2010

drafting press releases, corresponding with media contacts, maintaining a presence on Facebook/Twitter, etc

Valuable writing practice
Contacts with people whose whole job it is to know things and people
Working in up-and-coming technology (yes, well established tech that you may find ho-hum and no big deal but it's seriously under-utilized in many markets)

I dunno, but to me that sounds like a slam-dunk hell-yeah for someone starting out. Is it the most fantastical opportunity ever? No, but it's already in your lap.

I dunno what your life is like with other obligations, etc, but to this working stiff 10 hours a week sounds like a nothing commitment, particularly if you don't have to invest 9 seconds of travel time.
posted by phearlez at 7:06 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

One of the worst experiences in my life was having to let someone go and him telling me he honestly didn't want the job and never enjoyed it. Don't do this to yourself or anyone else. Paid or not.
posted by Big_B at 7:25 PM on February 11, 2010

I agree with indyz...just say no. so you don't want to take an unpaid position to do something that you're not interested in? I wouldn't either- it sounds tedious as hell, especially the part where you say "The work is of no interest to me." If you're willing to take an unpaid internship, start looking harder for something more aligned with your interests. Think about what you'd actually like to do, and then start making contacts- find people in jobs/fields that you'd like to work in and get in touch, letting them know you're interested in their field and asking if they'd be willing to talk to you about some career advice. Also, volunteer for a non-profit whose mission excites you. Join your alumni association and/or any relevant professional societies. Meanwhile, if you're going to take a crappy part time job make sure it at least pays you something.
posted by emd3737 at 7:31 PM on February 11, 2010

Think long and hard about what the job market is like right now. 10 hours of work, even unpaid, can help you feel a lot better about your self if you're facing down a long stint of job-seeking. These words do come from personal experience. Even having tele-commuting work can help structure your day. Say you're going to get up, and ready, and work for 2 hours every morning on non-profit stuff. Then 2 hours job seeking.

Do keep track of your hours, make sure it doesn't creep into the rest of your life. Perhaps make it explicit that you're available to them by phone/email for your "office hours" only. Many in non-profits are the crackberry, workaholic type. Which can be great if they're dedicated and started the organization. Not so great if they expect you to be e-mailable at all hours.
posted by fontophilic at 8:45 PM on February 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

$0.02: I did Facebook development last summer as an intern and it is probably not going to be useful except if I apply to companies in the same industry, and even then not as full-time staff.

Have you ever worked before? Would this add value to your CV? It's harsh, but depending on the nature of the non-profit, both the work experience and being able to list it on your CV might be next to nothing. I wouldn't take it.
posted by selvaria at 5:53 AM on February 12, 2010

I'd say don't take it. I was in a similar position as you a few years ago when I was graduating from college. I ended up taking the internship and hated every minute of it. If you live in any kind of urban area, or if you plan to move to one, internships are a dime a dozen. I'm confident that you'd be able to find something that interests you more somewhere else.

Also, for what it's worth, I don't think that internships which involve telecommuting are particularly valuable. Now that I'm managing a few interns of my own, I see why it is important for them to come into the office. Even if everything you're doing can be done remotely, you benefit a lot from being in the office environment. You get to know your co-workers, make some connections, pick up other tasks that might be thrown your way, and have a better chance of impressing the boss and getting a permanent position.

And don't let anyone tell you that an internship is going to make or break your career. Just because you turn this one down does not mean that you'll never get to break into the non-profit world. Wait until something comes along that really excites you - I'm sure it will. Good luck!
posted by bloody_bonnie at 8:39 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm questioning a couple of your premises here: that they'd expect you to stay on for several months, and that you'd get neither connections/recommendations nor the possibility of a job. I'm not saying that there aren't nonprofits out there like that--there are, and I've worked for a few--but it's worth trying to get a feel for whether or not you could at least get a letter of recommendation for a job well done.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:19 AM on February 12, 2010

« Older Believe it or not, I'm not screwing my boss.   |   Best friends without a common language ... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.