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I've been out of college and have a few years of professional working experience. Due to some genuine health issues, I have taken more than a year off from working and now I am ready to ease back into working and having my life back. I found an internship opportunity that gets me happy and very excited. It says P/T unpaid for 3 months with a path to a paid F/T position.

I know that well beyond doing an internship, especially since it's something I already have 3 years of experience in. Considering I have not worked in a while, I want something 'temporary' and not F/T so that's why it's appealing. I don't want to jump into a F/T and permanent job. I just don't like the title 'intern' at my age.

This is also a very unique one-of-a-kind opportunity and I can see why they want an intern to start and grow with because it's a 2 person media company as of now. I would bring more than they could ever imagine to the role and would hit the ground running from day one. I would basically kick a$$ and I have successfully done what they want for very high profile individuals when I used to work in NYC. I'm now in Denver. I want to say you can stop your search starting now lol. I want this job so badly.

I have a legitimate reason for at least inquiring about the possibility of being paid for my contributions. Part of the role is business development so commission could be on the table - possibly 10% of a 30K offer would be fair? The posting also says they are growing the company and are looking to bring on individuals.. so maybe they might be willing to consider a different position for myself?

Question: How do I appropriately go about asking to be paid for a unpaid internship given the circumstances?

Question: Let's say I get a conversation going with the company, when would be an ideal time to discuss this? I don't want to do it too late after I receive an unpaid offer..

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    In your position I wouldn't do an internship since you already have experience. Maybe you could try to make it into a parttime job, or otherwise search for a parttime job if you don't want to start with fulltime. Would that be a possibility? – Luchadora Aug 31 '17 at 8:15
  • Hmm, where to begin. Ordinarily asking to be paid for an unpaid position would be a non-starter but I guess it might be worth doing in this specific case, but you may want to clarify some of the following. Are you actually looking to move back to full-time after those 3 months? Why are you looking at internships in the first place? How could you want this job so badly given that it's unpaid, for an unknown company and you're simply not what they're looking for? And as a final note: avoid being this overconfident if you end up applying for them. – Lilienthal Aug 31 '17 at 8:27
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    You said you got 3+ years of work experience, so I would definitely not consider an unpaid internship as an option. If you want to apply, tell them right away that you consider yourself ideally suited for the job, but clearly state that you want to start with a paid part-time position. – NoBackingDown Aug 31 '17 at 9:12
  • Keep in mind that they might not have allocated the budget to pay your position, so they are unable to do it no matter how much you deserve it (that's called "overqualificaton"). When it is a startup they might not have any income yet, so their plan might be to hire an intern and start paying as soon as they have a source of revenue. – Philipp Aug 31 '17 at 9:29
  • Normally at this stage I wouldn't apply for an unpaid internship plus then ask to be be paid but this is different given the scenario. It's not for an unknown company - I didn't want to name it publicly. It's basically for a Youtuber who is the main person and the other is the producer/director. Think someone similar to Casey Neistat but not nearly as well known. I get they might not yet have a budget. I sounded very confident because of how excited I was. There's no way I would ever do that when applying or interviewing. – Remi Sep 1 '17 at 7:25
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To be honest I think your chances of turning this into a paid position are "slim" verging on "none", that said though you don't really have anything to lose and as the saying goes "you don't ask, you don't get".

Let's say I get a conversation going with the company, when would be an ideal time to discuss this? I don't want to do it too late after I receive an unpaid offer..

Assuming you definitely wouldn't take the role on unpaid then you need to be clear from the outset that you would only consider it if pay were a possibility. Essentially you aren't applying for the job they have advertised you are suggesting an alternative role. Bearing in mind we're talking about a two person company that has advertised for an unpaid intern with possible conversion to FT down the road, that doesn't exactly sound like they are swimming in spare cash to use to pay people. So there may well be literally no budget to pay any wages for this role and if that's the case then you would be wasting everyone's time to take the process any substantial distance.

How do I appropriately go about asking to be paid for a unpaid internship given the circumstances?

Let them know that you understand that the role as-described is an unpaid position (otherwise you'll just look like you didn't bother to read the job posting) but that you feel that with your existing experience and the fact that your personal circumstances mean you are looking for part time that would there be a possibility of having the role be paid. The key would be to frame the proposition as being of mutual benefit to both parties - they get an experienced worker rather than a complete beginner without having to shoulder a full time wage and you get the lighter time demands that suit you right now.

You mention that the role is at least partly business development so offering to work on a commission-only basis is an option as that would at the very least keep the company's fixed costs down if there is sufficient margin in each sale to pay a commission.

  • What you've said is very helpful especially with how to word my mutually beneficial proposition. I honestly rather have PT because of my previous health issues. I'll never be able to work a 9-5 traditional hour job and this job, even if FT, will be non-traditional/flex hours which is more of a reason why I want it. I also would take it, even if unpaid at first but via commission, just to do something I'm passionate about again and to get back to working again. – Remi Sep 1 '17 at 7:37
  • My fear is that even if I work for this company a while, down the road it could screw me with a salary history. What if later on I apply for a senior level job where they do a salary history and see I started as an unpaid intern not long before? I'll get lowballed going forward. Anyone have any thoughts on this? – Remi Sep 1 '17 at 7:42
  • Agree it is unlikely to do what you want under "intern" - you would be proposing an alternative. My concern is your comment that you will never be able to work a 9-5 traditional hour job. A common trajectory in this "startup" type of situation with only two people right now is that even if it starts at part-time the expectation is that as a core member 60 hr. weeks are coming before a new hire. Can you do that? Maybe you should join the "gig" workforce and establish a relationship with a company that can give you work when you are able to do it, but isn't compromised when you can't. – Randy Buchholz Sep 1 '17 at 14:31

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