Unpaid Internship Pays Dividends

logoI just finished up working an unpaid internship this semester with the Des Moines Menace, a minor league soccer team. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Prior to this I worked three other paid internships during my time in college. I decided I wanted one more internship, just to cap off senior year and broaden my marketing experiences that much more.

Here’s the kicker: I didn’t know the Menace internship was unpaid until the interview when I was offered the gig. It was 100 percent my fault that I didn’t know. I had interviewed for a full-time paid internship with them the summer before so I assumed that the internships during the school year were paid as well. I saw the job posting, knew that I had a history with the organization and liked my would-be boss (Adam) so I hit the button to apply. I wanted to work with the organization but I could not afford to take a 15-20 hour a week unpaid position. We talked it out, I took the weekend to think about it and we decided that since I already had my Fridays free for a potential internship I would work a full day on Fridays and they would hire another intern and split all the work between us.

On the first day I was extremely apprehensive. The summer after my freshman year I had accepted an unpaid internship with a minor league sports team in St. Paul. It was an awful experience and I ended up quitting after two weeks because the amount of time and travel required was not worth it. The first day with the Menace though, was awesome. Adam and I sat down and we mapped out a plan for my internship. We discussed specific things I wanted to learn about, specific projects I could complete for them that would be portfolio pieces for me, and short-term/long-term goals for the internship. For the Menace it was as much about me getting what I need out of an internship as it was getting done the work that they need completed.

The Menace only has a full-time staff of three people. The team depends on interns in order to simply function. Part of the reason I liked working there was that I was given real responsibilities that would not be completed if I was not there to do them. In addition to working on their social media and websites, my one main project was to create the 2015 Media Guide. This is a 40 page document that I created largely from scratch. In the process of creating the Media Guide I had to reformat excel spreadsheets upon excel spreadsheets of game results and season histories, turning them into documents that can be used to keep records for years to come.

While I’m incredibly proud of the work that I did for the Menace, the relationship that I developed with Adam was what really made the internship more valuable that I could have ever anticipated. He knew what a sacrifice it was for me to take an unpaid internship and did everything he could to make it worth my while. In addition to thanking me for being there every opportunity he got, he has become a mentor to me and someone I will continue to keep in contact with for years to come. We had many meetings where we would just sit and talk about my job search and strategies/tactics surrounding that. He tolerated me pestering him with questions about getting jobs via email at all hours of the day and provided a much needed sounding board. Most importantly, he challenged me and gave me needed shoves in the right professional direction. Just developing that professional relationship made the entire experience more than worthwhile for me and I am so thankful for it.

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