Today, my Women in Business advice might be a bit controversial. But as usual, it comes from personal experience and I truly believe it can be beneficial to you and your business. We’re talking about internships and how to understand your value.
Simply put, you cannot know the value of your work if you don’t know the work first. I won’t hide that I am a big fan of internships — even the unpaid ones. I’m not advocating for free labour, but when you’re first starting out you can take from an internship as much as they take from you. Let me explain.
I came to London as a foreign with only an okay level of English. I didn’t know my way around and my career at the time was in arts, which is a highly competitive sector. I had to work 2 jobs to be able to afford a one-year unpaid internship, but boy if it paid off. It taught me hard work, cherishing the skills I was learning and how to understand my value.
From that internship, I learnt the worth of my skills and how much I should be paid for them. An internship will also look great on your CV, telling your next employers that you spent time and money to learn and improve.
Of course, it will feel at times like people are taking advantage of your hard, unpaid work. But remember that you are taking advantage of them as well (it’s important that you do!!). You will have the unique experience of working in your field without too much responsibility, as everyone is expecting you to be learning and not knowing already what you’re doing. Observe, ask questions, meet people. There’s not only value in money, but also in experience. You may meet your future employer there, or create a network of people that will be useful in the years to come. You never know.
When you're passionate about something, you need to put your head down and do whatever it takes to learn more about it. Realise where you’re starting from, who are the people that can help you out and how. Sometimes, businesses can’t actually afford to pay someone but will be more than happy to have an intern shadowing them for a few days a week. It’s also good to reach out to them and see if they have any internship or mentorship going on.
Again, I’m not promoting free labour here — you shouldn’t spend years working for free and letting everyone take advantage of you. But recognise how much you have to learn still and put yourself in the position of doing it no matter what.
Have a lovely Sunday folks!