How to Survive as an Unpaid Intern


How to Survive as an Unpaid Intern

 Make it work.

Article originally posted at


Welcome to our new intern series, led by Quincy Bulin, our super-talented copy intern! With the help of #TeamIvanka’s other smart, savvy interns, she’ll be addressing a handful of topics that are top of mind for interns in any industry.


From Quincy: It’s the conundrum every unpaid intern knows well: You don’t have a paycheck, but you still have living expenses. It can be tough for already-stressed college students who know that internships are incredibly valuable in building a foundation for your career, but aren’t sure if they can afford to work for free. What’s to be done? With this being my third unpaid summer in New York City, I’ve learned a few tricks, as have the other interns at Ivanka Trump HQ.


Save up during the school year

If you know you’ll be an unpaid intern during the summer, you can anticipate your expenses by working while school is still in session. “By working on-campus jobs and doing freelance design work during the school year, I was able to put away enough money to be able to have some summer fun on the weekends,” says MacKenzie Schroeder, our graphic design intern. Mackenzie Owens, our licensing intern, adopted the same philosophy with her job at a restaurant, where she works during the school year. “At the end of each night, I put half my tips in a clear jar so I could see my progress and motivate myself,” she says.


Take on a part-time job

What about when your savings aren’t enough and bills still need to be paid? Batsheva Loeb, one of our marketing interns, tacked on a part-time job to her summer responsibilities. “I don’t like splitting up my days, so I’ll split up my week between interning and working, and then give myself a free day.” She works at Ivanka Trump Tuesday-Thursday, does her part-time job Friday, Saturday and Monday, and takes Sunday off. While there’s certainly a lot on her to-do list, Batsheva has no regrets. “My theory is that we’re young and have a lot of energy—we should push ourselves career-wise as hard as we can now.” If that means you’re working as a retail associate or hostess on the side to intern at your dream company, so be it.


Don’t be afraid to ask for reimbursement

After receiving your internship offer, it’s okay to see if the company can reimburse you for travel or provide a lunch stipend. “It’s appropriate to ask and it demonstrates a lot of maturity to put that foot forward. I don’t think anyone would ever be insulted that you’re asking for such things,” says MacKenzie S. Plus, you’re giving yourself a one-up in building negotiation skills. “For the rest of your career, you’re going to be asking tough questions about compensation,” she adds.


Socialize on the cheap

Sometimes it’s not about whether or not you spend money, but rather how clever you are with the money being spent. “I do big dinners with my friends and we potluck it. It’s really fun and I have all these leftovers, which means no groceries for the week,” Batsheva explains. “You can also do a lot of things with Groupon.” For MacKenzie S., there’s actually an upside to having limited funds: “It forces you to think about what you really want to do. Some experiences are worth spending more money on, so you can prioritize those.”


Set a budget for yourself

It’s always important to allocate money wisely, but even more so when you aren’t bringing in an income to supplement your spending. “I budget on a week-by-week basis. I set up a budget with groceries, transportation, activities and an emergency buffer. I’ll use Amazon Prime for groceries because it’s usually cheaper,” says Batsheva. Setting hard limits for yourself may be annoying, but Mackenzie O. can attest to the fact that it definitely works: “I try to use cash—it’s so much harder for me to give away a $20 bill then to swipe my card for $20. I also allocate a certain amount of cash to events so that when I use up my cash, I know I’m out of money for the night.”



Packaged For Success readers what do you think? Should interns be paid?

internship tip offer valuable learning experience

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