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Thoughts on unpaid internships


J-rap
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My dd has been spending a lot of time looking for a summer internship now, and something that really bothers me are the companies that offer unpaid internships.  Even full time, unpaid internships!  It seems like even non-profits would be able to at least offer some small stipend to pay for travel back and forth, knowing that these are college students who are most likely struggling financially as is.  My daughter is only applying for the unpaid ones if they are 10 hours or less per week.  She still needs to get a mostly full-time, paying job during the summer months.

 

Am I the oddball thinking this?  

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DS21's experience has been that larger/well established/well known businesses do not and will not offer unpaid internships. He's been told by multiple sources that unpaid internships are no longer legally allowed. However, he did recently do a part-time internship for a small start up where it was agreed that his "compensation" would be provided by giving him a set number of hours of mentoring by the founder of the start up. So I'm fuzzy on the legalities of it all. He was happy to do the internship in return for the mentoring as the advice/guidance/recommendations he received were very beneficial.

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My son's job (not glamorous, just Popeyes) allows him to go on leave during the year and pick up in the summer.  This summer he's doing manager training when he gets back.  Not having to find a new job each summer and having some management experience (even if it is just fast food), along with a long-term job on the resume, seems to us to be worth more than any unpaid internship.  I'm not saying he would never, ever do one, but it would have to offer something pretty special to make it worth it.

 

IMO, the companies that have these internships are just taking advantage of a hard job market and college students desperation to get a job out of school and start paying on their loans.

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There are stricter rules now, who knows how long that will last, regarding what can qualify as an unpaid internship. The federal dept. of labor published guidelines a few years ago that require unpaid interns to a)not displace paid staff, b) do work that substantially benefits the intern and not the company and c) receive some kind of mentoring or course credit in lieu of payment (among other things). You can still find lots of unpaid internships in the public and non-profit sector tho. If you are seeing internships that don't meet DOLs tests, report them! https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.pdf

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Interesting to me is the fact that government internships are often unpaid.

 

I know a young woman who is majoring in international relations. Last summer she had an unpaid internship working in the office of the ambassador to the UN and has another this summer working abroad in a US Embassy. Both in high cost cities. Fortunately, she was able to obtain grant money for the one last year which covered *most* of her (modest) housing. No luck so far for this summer.

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Interesting to me is the fact that government internships are often unpaid.

 

I know a young woman who is majoring in international relations. Last summer she had an unpaid internship working in the office of the ambassador to the UN and has another this summer working abroad in a US Embassy. Both in high cost cities. Fortunately, she was able to obtain grant money for the one last year which covered *most* of her (modest) housing. No luck so far for this summer.

This is a major problem for students (as I was) who major in poly sci of some kind. I couldn't afford to be unpaid and had to create my own internship. Essentially, I got a non-profit job and used it to meet my internship requirement vs applying specifically for internships. Edited by Sneezyone
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Sadly, this is very common. My DD did an unpaid internship last summer, for a science museum. They have no funds. (She talked to the director of the department where she was working, and even the full time people make very little money.)

It sucks, but that's what it is. 

Edited by regentrude
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In law school I did externships. Those are unpaid internships for which you get school credit.

 

Which means I actually paid to do it. My first summer of law school I worked at the externship and worked at walmart on the weekends. But I learned a lot doing them, so it was worthwhile.

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Many employers I have talked to have found that having interns drains company resources and that the interns are not productive. By the time they have the intern trained and up-to-speed, the intern is leaving. 

 

Which is where recognizing that part of the point of internships is so you can find fresh talent worth snapping up at graduation, and as service to your industry/profession.

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My oldest is doing an engineering internship with a local firm this school year. Unpaid. But he's only 16 & this was set up by a parent in our homeschool group who works there & is overseeing the internship program.

 

They are viewing it as exposing local kids to engineering in hopes that some might return to our rural area after college to pursue the limited STEM jobs available here (but they do exist here & the couple places who need engineers are having trouble recruiting them.. Dh is currently trying to hire someone at his place of work & they've been looking for 6 months at least. Pay is low here, but so is COL)

 

They had strict rules about how many hours per week they could work & how many total hours could be unpaid, info they got frm the labor dept when setting up the program, I believe.

 

Now if we could just invent a computer science internship for him, since he's now leaning way more to CS than engineering. Sigh.

Edited by Hilltopmom
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This is a major problem for students (as I was) who major in poly sci of some kind. I couldn't afford to be unpaid and had to create my own internship. Essentially, I got a non-profit job and used it to meet my internship requirement vs applying specifically for internships.

 

I think this is a good alternative.  I've suggested to my dd that she could look for a more general type of (paying) job and then offer to do some specific projects within the job that pertain to her career goals.  

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Very, very common in my area. The only way you get a paid internship is if you are in a STEM field where it directly benefits the company, or if you've already worked there in an unpaid internship. A friend of ours did an unpaid summer working for the Congressional Research Service, and then the next summer they paid her GS-3 wages, but only because she had an undergraduate degree and a year of graduate school. If she hadn't been commuting from home by train, being able to do that would have required significant funds from another source.

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I do think some of the challenges are degree specific. I am hopeful this young friend will get a good job after graduation. The thinking seems to be (at least in IR) one has to take the unpaid internships to get one's foot in the door for something paid down the road. Since she had an unpaid one last summer (after sophomore year) her parents were hopeful she would get something paid this summer. I think it's more a function of her area than anything else. She's a bright young woman with lots of leadership on campus.

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We noticed a lot of digging needed with nonprofits. The application window is short with little announcement if they aren't well known,and if they are well known they are swamped with applications. It seems as effective to develop a project of ones own and do it.

Edited by Heigh Ho
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Do check out whether or not your student's college offers financial help for students who want to pursue interesting options over the summer.

 

Some colleges will provide money for students who want to volunteer at a particularly interesting job or pursue some kind of passion. At my older kids' college, students applied in late winter and the grants were announced in mid-spring. These grants allowed students to do such things as hiking the Appalachian Trail and studying in a foreign country and doing a unpaid internship at an art conservation facility. The grant was intended to allow students to do dream pursuits regardless of personal finances, though the application process was NOT dependent on financial aid status in any way -- the only finances asked about were the student's financial needs for the summer project. The amount of money in the student/parental bank account and FAFSA info was not requested.

 

Maybe other colleges offer this type of grant?

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Interesting to me is the fact that government internships are often unpaid.

 

I know a young woman who is majoring in international relations. Last summer she had an unpaid internship working in the office of the ambassador to the UN and has another this summer working abroad in a US Embassy. Both in high cost cities. Fortunately, she was able to obtain grant money for the one last year which covered *most* of her (modest) housing. No luck so far for this summer.

 

Grant money? That's an interesting thought as ds is in the process of applying for one of those unpaid internships in a high cost city.  He is thinking he can coach sailing to supplement  his finances, but usually the type of internship he is looking at is easily full time.

 

Government internships seem to fall outside of the DOL guidelines.  According to an article in the Atlantic from a few years ago, only a third of the Senators pay their interns and sadly, Democrats make up a small portion of that number. It's certainly not walking the talk.

 

Ds will get three academic credits for the experience if he gets the position, but I am not holding my breath as it's very competitive.

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Sadly, this is very common. My DD did an unpaid internship last summer, for a science museum. They have no funds. (She talked to the director of the department where she was working, and even the full time people make very little money.)

It sucks, but that's what it is. 

 

Unfortunately, this means that internships are limited to those students with a certain level of financial backing. Hopefully, your dd's internship provided her with some great experience.

 

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Ds has a paid internship. At least that's what they call it, but I've never understood the setup. He works, they pay him, and this is his third year there! He's to the point that HE'S hiring interns. What's the difference between an internship and just working?

Project deadlines and supervisory responsibility.

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I actually think fast food is valuable experience! I wish I could get my oldest interested in that sort of thing.

 

As it is, she has been doing an unpaid internship with a nonprofit in her area. It's glorified volunteer work, but I am grateful that nonprofits and companies offer the opportunity, as it think it can be a real hassle for them to have these young short term workers in the mix. It's given her an opportunity to see a bit of what goes on inside the organization. She hopes it will lead to a job there; we will see. Funding is a major issue for many nonprofits.

 

My current college freshman is an engineering major, and no doubt it will be easier for her to line up paid work. However, for this coming summer she hasn't had much luck yet. So she will also do an unpaid stint with the college chapter of an engineering nonprofit group. She will get to work overseas at no cost to her though, so that is well worth it for the educational aspect.

 

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I actually think fast food is valuable experience! I wish I could get my oldest interested in that sort of thing.

 

As it is, she has been doing an unpaid internship with a nonprofit in her area. It's glorified volunteer work, but I am grateful that nonprofits and companies offer the opportunity, as it think it can be a real hassle for them to have these young short term workers in the mix. It's given her an opportunity to see a bit of what goes on inside the organization. She hopes it will lead to a job there; we will see. Funding is a major issue for many nonprofits.

 

My current college freshman is an engineering major, and no doubt it will be easier for her to line up paid work. However, for this coming summer she hasn't had much luck yet. So she will also do an unpaid stint with the college chapter of an engineering nonprofit group. She will get to work overseas at no cost to her though, so that is well worth it for the educational aspect.

 

Several of the study abroad programs at ds's school offer internships built into the experience. Room and board abroad can be cheaper than on campus.  But no, my ds has decided he needs an internship that allows him to stay in his beloved city. He will wilt. He is fortunate that if he gets the internship, uncles want to pitch in for the experiences, otherwise I don't think we could do it.

 

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Interesting to me is the fact that government internships are often unpaid.

 

I know a young woman who is majoring in international relations. Last summer she had an unpaid internship working in the office of the ambassador to the UN and has another this summer working abroad in a US Embassy. Both in high cost cities. Fortunately, she was able to obtain grant money for the one last year which covered *most* of her (modest) housing. No luck so far for this summer.

 

Yes, the rules are only for the for-profit private sector.

 

I wonder if in some instances they feel like getting school credit in exchange for the work is the "payment."  DS is doing an unpaid internship right now, but he's just a high school student.

Edited by Grantmom
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Unfortunately, this means that internships are limited to those students with a certain level of financial backing. Hopefully, your dd's internship provided her with some great experience.

 

Or they work a second job. One of DS's friends did banquet set-up and worked as a waiter at a conference center in the evening and on weekends while working at an unpaid internship. He lived at home, but he needed the money.

 

When I worked in DC, a lot of the unpaid or low-pay interns did similar work to make ends meet.

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I actually think fast food is valuable experience! I wish I could get my oldest interested in that sort of thing.

 

My oldest works at our gym on a cleaning and maintenance crew. Because he's reliable and older than some, they have him doing more than most in terms of mentoring new employees and planning with the boss. Sometimes they get him involved in special events assisting the trainers, which is a treat. He's going to do more of that over the summer when they have camps for kids and teens.

 

It can be pretty ugly work though. They've had some significant issues in the evening in the bathrooms and the childcare area where he had to stay late. Sometimes he works with slackers, and periodically people get fired.

 

Lots of lessons being learned though! When his boss sees me there working out, he always comes over to say that DS is a great employee through thick-and-thin. He'll have a good reference there when he moves on to something else.

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Yes, the rules are only for the for-profit private sector.

 

I wonder if in some instances they feel like getting school credit in exchange for the work is the "payment." DS is doing an unpaid internship right now, but he's just a high school student.

This young woman I know gets no credit for the internships she's had - notwithstanding the prestige level and the security clearance they have required. It's "paying dues" (literally) in the hopes of something down the road.

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I'll be interning next fall at a museum. I'll be paying for the credit and not paid to work. I did get to dictate how many hours, so I'm doing enough for 2 credits instead of 3, which helps my budget. Because it's a museum where we have an established relationship and it's a museum, I'm not so concerned about not getting paid. I'd feel differently if it was a for profit corporation. 

 

As Hoggirl said, in my field it's part of paying the dues. I need experience on my CV,  they need volunteers. There is no way *I* could volunteer for an out of town position over the summer. Even ds would be hard pressed to accept an out of town unpaid internship without financial assistance. 

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The thing that bothers me about unpaid internships (of which my kids have had several -- and they have all been fantastic experiences!) is in order to participate students need some kind of financial backing. They have either parents or a bank account that can provide housing, transportation, and food.

 

I am thankful that at least a few colleges do provide financial support for these unpaid experiences, but for the most part only the students who have families with at least a modicum of financial resources can participate in these experiences.  i am surprised that there is not broader financial support for unpaid internships by colleges and other organizations so ALL interested students can participate.

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The thing that bothers me about unpaid internships (of which my kids have had several -- and they have all been fantastic experiences!) is in order to participate students need some kind of financial backing. They have either parents or a bank account that can provide housing, transportation, and food.

 

 

 

Yes, this is one of the things that bothers me the most too.  If my dd ends up taking an unpaid internship (and she would still need to have at least a part-time paying job in there somewhere), she does have family who can help her out with housing.  She also has a relative or two she could live with off-campus.  But two of her roommates are from out of the state or country and have no relative/family friends in town at all or any means to support themselves over the summer, except to get a paying job.  

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One thing that is done when fam and friend network isn't helpful is sublease from a student, usually at an affordable rate that can be covered via part time job while in school or paid work during breaks .

Edited by Heigh Ho
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One thing that is done when fam and friend network isn't helpful is sublease from a student, usually at an affordable rate that can be covered via part time job while in school or paid work during breaks .

Money from poor kids' summer/fall/spring employment is calculated (taken) by the school in the financial aid calculation. If you spend it to support yourself during an unpaid internship it's not there to pay for tuition or books. Unless you're working multiple jobs, the only way I've seen it done is with heavy family support. Just spent the week in DC, all of those kids on Capitol Hill are either in paid/stipend billets (rare) or subsidized by family. I asked. Edited by Sneezyone
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Money from poor kids' summer/fall/spring employment is calculated (taken) by the school in the financial aid calculation. If you spend it to support yourself during an unpaid internship it's not there to pay for tuition or books. Unless you're working multiple jobs, the only way I've seen it done is with heavy family support. Just spent the week in DC, all of those kids on Capitol Hill are either in paid/stipend billets (rare) or subsidized by family. I asked.

 

Yes.

 

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I wasn't speaking of capitol hill in particular, just my experiences..lots of college friends helping poorer friends make it, some employers adjusting work hours around internships etc. We helped a kid last year find housing for his internship as there was nothing on the market in his price range, and he didn't know anyone in that area but we did..people know what's it like and they are willing to help a kid launch by not charging all the market will bear for rent. Networking is sooo important.

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I wasn't speaking of capitol hill in particular, just my experiences..lots of college friends helping poorer friends make it, some employers adjusting work hours around internships etc. We helped a kid last year find housing for his internship as there was nothing on the market in his price range, and he didn't know anyone in that area but we did..people know what's it like and they are willing to help a kid launch by not charging all the market will bear for rent. Networking is sooo important.

 

We've thought about unusual living arrangements too such as an Airbnb in a big old house that we stayed in that had upon occasion done longer rentals. The location is perfect for easy access to transit, Target, the more affordable bodegas, and a laundromat. Ds would have one large room, a bathroom, and a shared kitchen. He's already thinking about how to approach the owner. We'll see.

 

I can't remember if anyone mentioned that some schools require that the student's summer earnings be part of the financial picture. This is problematic if you get an unpaid internship.

 

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We've thought about unusual living arrangements too such as an Airbnb in a big old house that we stayed in that had upon occasion done longer rentals. The location is perfect for easy access to transit, Target, the more affordable bodegas, and a laundromat. Ds would have one large room, a bathroom, and a shared kitchen. He's already thinking about how to approach the owner. We'll see.

 

I can't remember if anyone mentioned that some schools require that the student's summer earnings be part of the financial picture. This is problematic if you get an unpaid internship.

 

I don't see it as problematic..the students I know in this situation typically need app $2600..so at ten an hour over twelve weeks that's app 20 hrs a week. Are you seeing a much greater expectation?

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I don't see it as problematic..the students I know in this situation typically need app $2600..so at ten an hour over twelve weeks that's app 20 hrs a week. Are you seeing a much greater expectation?

You are not factoring in taxes. There aren't an abundance of $10-15/hr jobs. Edited by Sneezyone
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When I did a technical diploma, I felt the required internship was better managed.  It was done during the school year and counted as part of your educational credit, straight out - so if you had a student loan or such, it was outright part of your time "in-school".

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I don't see it as problematic..the students I know in this situation typically need app $2600..so at ten an hour over twelve weeks that's app 20 hrs a week. Are you seeing a much greater expectation?

 

Could you clarify this a little more please?

 

I think ds's expected contribution is between $3,000 - $5,0000 per year, so if I understand this correctly, the university counts all of ds's summer income (and then some) when they figure financial aid, which would affect the amount of his grant.

 

He will live out of state in a HOC area, so we would need to cover his living expenses, plus the loss of income that would be part of the financial aid package, right?  Am I thinking about this correctly?  I think the internship is pretty much full time, but am not sure, so I don't know if he could work in the afternoons, evenings, or weekends as a sailing instructor.

 

He did tell me yesterday that if this doesn't work out that apparently that region's intercollegiate sailing association passes on its member names. He's been getting offers to work in various sailing camps for room and board and probably minimum wage. He thinks Maine might be calling his name. :tongue_smilie:

 

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I wound up working 2 full time paid jobs over the summers, one in a hospital lab very early in the morning or split shift (I was a Bio major first degree around & did that instead of an unpaid internship) and one on campus for events staff.

 

The events staff gig came with free dorm housing & meal plan, so I lucked into an awesome set up. But, I was exhausted all the time. Way too many hours of work per day.

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He did tell me yesterday that if this doesn't work out that apparently that region's intercollegiate sailing association passes on its member names. He's been getting offers to work in various sailing camps for room and board and probably minimum wage. He thinks Maine might be calling his name. :tongue_smilie:

 

 

Spending the summer in Maine sailing/working sounds pretty good to me! (And your ds can wave to my ds as they sail by!)

 

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Ds talked to financial aid. Supposedly they don't expect him to contribute summer income and that is not factored in. But, I could have sworn that was on the FAFSA. I will have to look at it again, but according to the university, his grant shouldn't be affected. I wish it would in the positive because we will have to meet the $4,000 shortfall from his not working.

 

Ds's summer internship is a 9-6pm job M-F.  There is not a lot of extra time to pick up income on the side unless he can teach sailing on the weekends.

 

Also, something to consider: in order to get credit for ds's summer internship, we would need to pay for the credits to the university and of course, scholarships and grants do not apply to summer term.  Ds has a ton of credits and can only get 6 max internship credits, so he will leave those for the regular school year and study abroad.

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ugh. I lost my post. Congrats on your son's internship. Did your son look into whether his school had scholarships/grants for students doing internships in high COL areas? I know my kids' school has these.

 

There are weekend sailing jobs available in the DC area we had friends of the family that sailed there. Here are some jobs that seem like they will work with a weekend schedul. I remember from when my husband worked there that some areas have better public transportation than others, so some of these jobs may be too far from your son.

 

1st 2 have a deadline by tomorrow

http://gsicareers.com/752423.htm

http://boatingindc.com/about/careers/ (mentions weekend work specifically)

 

https://dcsail.org/American-Spirit-Crew

 

http://www.saildc.com/job-opportunities (can pick hours)

 

http://federalgovernmentjobs.us/jobs/Sailing-Instructor-467774800.html (weekend mentioned)

http://federalgovernmentjobs.us/jobs/Sailing-Instructor-467671200.html (weekend mentioned)

http://federalgovernmentjobs.us/jobs/Recreation-Specialist-Nf3-Sailing-Instructor-Seasonal-467144400.html

 

http://www.schoonerwoodwind.com/contact-us/employment/

 

I am sure there are others.

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In law school I did externships. Those are unpaid internships for which you get school credit.

 

Which means I actually paid to do it. My first summer of law school I worked at the externship and worked at walmart on the weekends. But I learned a lot doing them, so it was worthwhile.

 

I also did unpaid externships during law school.  The experience and commendation go a long way in building resume and establishing connections but not in helping your bank account. :)

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ugh. I lost my post. Congrats on your son's internship. Did your son look into whether his school had scholarships/grants for students doing internships in high COL areas? I know my kids' school has these.

 

There are weekend sailing jobs available in the DC area we had friends of the family that sailed there. Here are some jobs that seem like they will work with a weekend schedul. I remember from when my husband worked there that some areas have better public transportation than others, so some of these jobs may be too far from your son.

 

1st 2 have a deadline by tomorrow

http://gsicareers.com/752423.htm

http://boatingindc.com/about/careers/ (mentions weekend work specifically)

 

https://dcsail.org/American-Spirit-Crew

 

http://www.saildc.com/job-opportunities (can pick hours)

 

http://federalgovernmentjobs.us/jobs/Sailing-Instructor-467774800.html (weekend mentioned)

http://federalgovernmentjobs.us/jobs/Sailing-Instructor-467671200.html (weekend mentioned)

http://federalgovernmentjobs.us/jobs/Recreation-Specialist-Nf3-Sailing-Instructor-Seasonal-467144400.html

 

http://www.schoonerwoodwind.com/contact-us/employment/

 

I am sure there are others.

 

Thank you so much. I will pass these on to him.

 

 

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I also did unpaid externships during law school.  The experience and commendation go a long way in building resume and establishing connections but not in helping your bank account. :)

 

This is what we are hoping will happen. The person ds is working for sits on committees that are perfect for ds's areas of interest. Also, I am hoping that conducting tours and talking to constituents on the phone will help polish that "awkward homeschool socialization." :lol:

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The person ds is working for sits on committees that are perfect for ds's areas of interest.

 

That is fabulous!  It sounds like he is in the ideal location to begin establishing relationships and contacts who can be instrumental in his career.  DH and I both benefited immensely in our careers from  "unpaid" experiences.  You never know who may cross your path, notice you, and open doors to very well paid opportunities.  We admittedly focus on the long term picture, but boy can it pay off  :)

 

Congrats again on such a great opportunity!

 

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