So you have the choice to either do a paid internship at an organisation a few blocks from your house, or an unpaid internship on the other side… of the world! What do you choose?
Why work for free in Cape Town? Is it actually worth it?
Well, the answer is simple! Choose the internship that will give you the most experience. One that will develop your skills and your personality. Broaden your horizons, teach you something new about yourself and contextualize your academic studies. Yes… I mean pack your bags and go!
There is a HUGE need for skilled workers in the development sector in Cape Town and throughout South Africa. The problem is twofold. Either, NGOs do not have the financial resources to employ skilled individuals or there aren’t persons available with the skillset they require to successfully realise their mandate. This is where you come in.
You probably have a degree from a good university, you write well, you speak fluent English and you understand the theoretical concepts that are current within the development sector. You are the solution! Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean you won’t benefit as well!
If an organisation is willing to accept you to do an unpaid internship, chances are they probably really need you, and so they will do their best to make sure you are happy, inspired and learning along the way. Think about it, why would they want the extra hassle of having to ‘look after’ someone? They need you. Really!
The relationship ALWAYS needs to be mutually beneficial. When agreeing to do an unpaid internship, be sure you have a supervisor at the organisation who will be available to assess your progress and guide you throughout your stay. Ensure that there is a clear development plan and the work you are doing is actually what was agreed upon.
if i could… supports you with this! Not only do we set up your internship with the host organisation, but we also keep track of how you’re doing throughout the internship and maintain contact with the host organisation.
From a policy perspective, the law in South Africa states that international interns are not allowed to be remunerated for their work. This stems from the high, and rising, unemployment rate in the country. This doesn’t mean that international interns aren’t allowed to work here, learn and create meaningful experiences in South Africa, just that they legally aren’t allowed to get paid by the organisations hosting them.
If an international wishes to work in a paid position in South Africa, they would need to apply for a work permit, and this is a whole new ballgame! It’s a quite expensive and time-consuming process that involves an immigration consultant’s support and guidance.
These are plenty! Just imagine, by the time you complete this internship, you will have done and learned so much that the types of jobs you will qualify for will increase tenfold. Coupled with this….
- You will learn the proper etiquette of working in a professional environment in the development sector.
- Learn what it means to stick to deadlines.
- You will strengthen your internal and external communication skills.
- You will learn how to work with clients and understand how a project cycle works.
- If research, monitoring and evaluation are a part of your job description, you will learn skills that will make you a sought after commodity in the workplace.
- You will be given the opportunity to take initiative and to be a creative problem solver.
- The work you do will be satisfying, and you will have a sense of purpose.
- You will build a strong network for future collaboration.
An additional benefit of doing an unpaid internship is that you can probably negotiate for a flexible internship if need be. This means, if you have other engagements you would like to attend, such as a professional development course or interesting workshop, if you give your supervisor enough notice they will more than likely give you the time off.
The end result…
You will have travelled to South Africa to help a local organisation realize their dream of helping poor and vulnerable members of society. You will have travelled thousands of miles to support in building a programme, assist with social intervention activities, advocate for justice, give a voice to those who are unable to do it for themselves and so much more! The payment is in the experience, we promise!
Look at doing this internship as an investment that will pay off every day for the rest of your life. When you find yourself working at an unpaid internship in the development sector and people ask, “How much do you make?” just say, “I make a difference!”