You work your ass off to get into college in the first place. If you’re smart and lucky, you’ll get a handful of scholarships and grants to get you through. If not, you’re forced to tackle your tuition with student loans if you don’t have the funds to pay it up front in cash.

You study your ass off, you do your homework, you write your papers, you pass your tests, you pass your classes – four spirit breaking years of college but your willpower never brings you down. You’re a champion. You stuck through it, thick and thin and you walked up that aisle when your name was called and you grabbed that diploma case like the winner you are and you held it proudly like the trophy of academia it was. You’ve earned your Bachelor’s degree.

You think the hard part is over but you’re hit with the baseball bat of the real world immediately; You have to find a job. Now is the chance for everything you’ve trained for to pay off. You’ve pumped your resume with your latest degree, you maintain your poker face as you sport your academic accomplishments despite the looming curse of that first student loan payment lurking behind your footsteps. Fresh out of college, 30K in debt and what do the employers want to offer you?

Unpaid internships. Because they’ll look good on your “record.”

Yeah right. Here’s the bitter reality. Employers can and will prey on you and your desperation. You’re fresh out of college and every fiber of your existence is frantic for work. Employers are successful, smart and cunning. When they spot someone who just graduated from college and see the desperation for work behind their eyes, they’ll gladly offer up an unpaid internship on the off chance that maybe they’ll hire you in a few month’s time. Maybe. An unpaid internship where you will continue to bust your ass for someone else for NO pay. “Oh but you will get experience!” Guess what – you can google at least 50 jobs in various fields that offer up paid trainee positions. You’ve just spent a tremendous amount of money on education or you’ve just buried yourself under a tremendous amount of debt – experience won’t pay the bills. Ever. And you deserve more.

When you accept an unpaid internship, you value your skill-set at $0. Everything you’ve trained for, everything you’ve educated for, you’ve just sold out for zero dollars. If you’re good at something, you should never do it for free. Ever. Unless it is explicitly written and/or signed that after a certain amount of time working for FREE that you’ll get a steady job working for that company, you can otherwise politely tell them to piss off in the nicest way you can think of. Free work is free work and employers may often look at employees as an expense as opposed to an investment. NOTE: This does not include internships that provide college credit – at least you’re getting something.

After all, you’ve just spent at least four years obtaining an education in a specific field – why on Earth would any employer feel it’s fair to pay you NOTHING after all that hard work? More importantly, why should you accept such an unfair wage? Employers worth working for will pay you for your time. Your time is all you have in life and as long as you’re trading hours for dollars, it would be in your best interest to be the one that comes out on top of that deal.

Don’t be a slave. Be fair to yourself. Never work for free.