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I have recently received an unpaid internship offer from a young start-up (Company A). I had not known the position was unpaid before interviewing. I am also waiting on a response to a paid internship application at Company B, where I am in the final list of candidates.

Company A was made aware of my position with respect to Company B before I interviewed (by another party). After being offered the position with Company A at interview I informed them I would need to think about it and wait to hear about Company B's offer. Unfortunately, Company B were delaying their response and Company A wanted a response ASAP.

I am concerned I may have then done 2 things wrong (no response so far, which I fear suggests both parties are unhappy). Firstly, I emailed Company B to politely request a response sooner since I am under pressure from Company A to accept (the truth). Secondly, I emailed Company A to confirm I was very excited and that I would like to get a list of responsibilities/benefits: a contract for me to assess. I mentioned concerns about doing the job with my current laptop (would they provide a work laptop?) and also if it would be possible to receive a modest monthly stipend (not a deal-breaker, but I didn't say this explicitly).

As a relatively inexperienced job-seeker, I wanted some feedback on my actions:

  • Was it incorrect to notify Company B of my new situation and request earlier feedback?
  • Should I have refrained from enquiring about specific benefits with Company A?
  • In general, is it wrong to attempt to negotiate for some benefits from an unpaid internship?

Any advice/suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.

EDIT: A further question. Any advice on choosing between: (a) an unpaid internship which provides incredible experience doing something really interesting, (b) a paid internship offering less valuable (but still good) experience, but concerns about the attitude of the supervisor.

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    Related (but not an answer): Exploding Offer Season by the guy who established this whole crazy Stack Exchange thing. – jmac May 15 '14 at 8:56
  • Point 3 of the link @jmac posted would be my answer almost verbatim. – Joe May 15 '14 at 9:03
  • Cheers guys. I feel too much like the kid they mention at the end: “gosh, I promised I’ll go work for them, and I’m going to keep my promise.” I am concerned about burning bridges though. Company A is pretty impressive in aims and talent. Obviously a risk but perhaps this is the time in my career to take one? – amacs May 15 '14 at 9:15
  • @amacs Every single decision in your life contains risks. You're an intern. Now is the time to learn rather than to earn money. – Kevin May 15 '14 at 9:21
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When you find yourself in such situations is best to be prepared to loose it all. It's the best guarantee for winning.

What should you do in such cases?

  1. Defend your interests. If what you value most is having a payed internship (against a fantastic place that doesn't give you stipend but from where you can start your career with improved odds of success) then choose to accept only a payed internship (and discard the other options).
  2. Never tell to one employer about the other negotiations you have in place (but do tell if this is part of your negotiating tactics). By doing so, you give leverage to the counterpart. By knowing you are pressured by indecisiveness, they can change their mind, pressure you, lower their offer or lose esteem.
  3. You should always discus the terms of your employment (without remorse). By doing otherwise, you expose yourself to the possibility of finding yourself with a job that makes you miserable.
  4. Understand/accept the reality; many internships are without pay and many more pay less than half of what is usually rewarded to a part-time or full-time occupant of the same job (perquisites/benefits included).
  5. Stop wasting your time being concerned. You did nothing wrong. Actually, you handled very well the situation.
  6. Think long term. Always choose the best options given the present conditions. If what you need right now is cash, than aim for a payed internship. Otherwise choose the place that makes possible the gain of exceptional work experience, some sort of reputation and fame or the human capital which after that will help you find the right/best payed job.
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    #1 remember when it comes to employment, you are both the salesman and the product, they are the potential customer. You know what your worth and don't let them use tactics like offering less to get you in now, etc. When I see companies use tricks to try and get staff at bargain rates I know I shouldn't count on raises, or frankly a healthy work envirornment – RualStorge May 15 '14 at 18:06

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