• Nineteen Magazine

8 Signs An Internship Isn't Worth Your Time

Updated: Sep 4, 2020

You're Not Making Connections

Networking is one of the most valuable things you can do when you are starting your career. If you are not meeting anyone new except your boss, then you're not making connections. If your boss is someone like Jeff Bezos, then that's probably okay, but ideally, you want to meet as many people as possible during your internship. The more connections you make, the greater chance you have of getting hired in the future either by the company you are interning for or somewhere else.

No One Is Mentoring You

Internships are supposed to be learning experiences. If you are just doing work for the company and no one is taking the time to teach you about the industry, then that's a job, not an internship. It's also illegal because you are doing work without getting paid and you are not getting anything out of it. If you are really desperate to get an experience to put on your resume, volunteer with a nonprofit instead of interning with a company that is likely taking advantage of you.

You're Not Getting College Credit Or Pay

It's actually illegal to do work without compensation. It's called slavery and exploitation. (Well, unless it's your mom asking you to do the dishes.) Companies know that they are supposed to offer their interns either pay or college credit. If they aren't offering either of those two things, they shouldn't be hiring interns.

The Company Is Run By Interns

If the company has more interns than it has permanent employees, that's not a company you want to work for. It shows that they either don't want to invest in people long-term, don't have the financial freedom to hire full-time, permanent employees, or nobody with a degree wants to work for them. I actually interned for a lady once who had around 10-15 interns at a time, but maybe two paid employees. After three months of working twenty plus hours a week and receiving praise for the excellent job I was doing, I told her that in order to stay on I was going to need at least a stipend. She told me there was no money in her budget to add me to payroll. So basically her business was run by interns and she was the only one profiting off of everyone's work. Ridiculous, unprofessional, and immature. Her 'business plan' was a scam. There are a lot of people out there pulling tricks, so just be aware of who your employer is and whether or not the business is legit and professional.

Note: If you are in journalism be especially wary of scams like this.

The Company Is Still In Its Start-Up Stage

If you are interested in entrepreneurship, it could be a helpful experience to work alongside a previously established entrepreneur on a new start-up idea. However, there are lots of people with crazy business ideas that look for interns just as free labor to get their business off the ground. This isn't okay. Employers need to have already established a name for themselves before they start hiring interns. Otherwise, it's just the blind leading the blind.

There Is No Established Internship Program

When you are looking for an internship, try to find a program that is either endorsed by your university or has been around for long enough that it can be trusted. How long is long enough? I'd say at least three semesters, but that's just my opinion. The benefits of interning as an apart of an established internship program include working with an experienced coordinator and a company that is more than likely going to welcome you into their circle.

The Company Has A Bad Reputation (Or No One Has Heard Of It)

Before you take an internship, do a google search and determine whether or not this is the kind of company you want to work for. Are people giving it bad reviews? Does it only have half a star? These are signs the company has a bad reputation. As an intern, you are just starting your career. you don't want to associate with a poor company right off the bat. Don't take an internship with a business that has a bad reputation, it's only going to hurt yours. If you do a google search and the company doesn't even have a website, that's also probably a sign that you don't want to work for them. Sure, your internship doesn't have to be with Vogue or Coca-Cola to be valuable. You can learn a lot from working with a small business. However, if you are applying for a job in the future and your employer searches for that small place you interned for and can't find it that's going to look bad.


Internships can be great learning experiences, ways to make connections, and launch your professional career, but you need to be careful to find an internship that is safe and not a total waste of time. Check out your university's career counseling resources or look on LinkedIn for the best internship opportunities.

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