Internship experience doubles the chance of employees being engaged at work, according to Forbes. Unfortunately, only 22% of college students experienced an internship in the past year (thanks, Covid). Furthering the call for greater paid internships, Harvard Business Review shares a sad statistic: only 43% of all internships are paid. So how can liberal arts majors – especially English majors, or those studying marketing, philosophy, journalism or similar communications-based fields – find paid opportunities? In a market characterized by scarcity, writing for fun and profit seems like a pipe dream – but a new online marketplace is changing all that. In the current job market, interns are looking for creative solutions. Here are five ways to find a position, and write yourself into a new future.
- Don’t Play for No Pay: undervaluing your skills in an internship could do more harm than good. If experience is the only paycheck, what assurances do you have that the experience will lead to something of value? If you don’t value your time and your skills, how can you expect others to do the same? Remember, your work is worth something, even if you don’t have experience. Weigh the effort with the real benefits. Could you gain this experience elsewhere? And will that experience really lead to a paid position?
- Freedom in Freelancing: For two freelance writers and producers, Amy Suto and Kyle Cords, they’ve created an online marketplace for quality writing. Writers can find a living wage on Kingdom of Ink – a hub for freelancers to find paid writing gigs. Amy, a former ghostwriter, discovered how to lean into her creative skills and build value for her clients.
- Old Ideas, New Value: “Create a blog with affiliate links,” says Kyle Cords, Amy’s partner in Kingdom of Pavement, a creative media company creating stories for the audio space, in Los Angeles. “Offer value to create passive income streams,” he says. Because work experience is important, but experience won’t pay the rent. Kyle has a theory about “midnight oil”: not the Australian band from the 80’s, but a Gen-Z take on the time value of money. He advises taking big risks in your twenties, instead of wasting time being exploited and hoping for some uncertain and under-promised outcome. Savvy about social media? Turn that knowledge into a paycheck by helping those who aren’t.
- Do the Job, Get the Job: the internship dilemma, in a nutshell: how can you get a job that requires experience, without having experience? The answer is: create that experience for yourself. If you are a creative writer, writing your own travel blog or creating impact for your own personal brand on social media could be a way to build transferable skills. Often what’s missing for college students isn’t a lack of experience, it’s the ability to transfer skills onto a resume and, by extension, into the job interview. Isn’t it possible that coaching a soccer team gave you management experience? Could it be that teaching a bunch of 7-year-olds how to do the backstroke taught you something about how to manage people? If you don’t believe you have transferable skills, you’ll probably be first in line for that unpaid internship. Just remember, you always have other options. Is the issue that you don’t have experience, or you lack the skills to convey and communicate what you know? Learn how to communicate around your past experience and turn it into opportunity. As a creative writer, couldn’t you build that story? Make sure it’s not fiction, but a narrative around what you learned – with a happy ending that shares how you could create similar results for an employer!
- Eliminate Misunderstanding: there’s a fallacy at work, when it comes to unpaid internships. Namely, that you can’t be hired without experience. People are hired without experience all the time! Did Mark Zuckerberg have the experience of running a multi-billion dollar company, before he did it? No. The fact is that people have been figuring things out since God was a boy. As a creative writer, marketing person, philosopher or whatever your degree says you are, you have to know how to create something from nothing. If that’s still a mystery, maybe a freelance gig is a good fit for you. Step into your resourcefulness, and realize that you are writing your future, today. Think about it: what if it’s all writing? Not writing a fiction, or trying to step into some persona, but writing as the process of creation. What would you like to create for yourself? If you want to start something new, what would you do if there was no experience required?
The job market, and the internship market, is a complicated beast, thanks to the coronavirus. What employers want is often at odds with what employees need. If you wish to create something for yourself, remember: you already know how to do that. Creativity isn’t a matter of experience, it’s a matter of DNA. We, as human beings, are able to create things. Whether that’s a podcast, or a relationship, or your name on a real estate license: you can create that. And more. Much more. There’s no internship – or experience – required. Step into your creativity, and embrace who you are. You are more than your experiences, more than your internships, and someone who specializes in creating new ideas. Turn your powers towards your career, and never under-value what you have to offer.