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Unpaid Internships, Opportunity for Career Growth & the Grey Areas In Between!



In recent times, there has been a lot of focus on entrepreneurship and career development amongst Nigerian millennials. Different opinions have been shared about the best way to put your foot on the ladder of career progression; however, one thing that has created highly polarised views on the subject is the issue of internships – paid and unpaid.

Many people have argued that internships are the best way to get into that field you’ve always dreamed to work in. Others have countered that by saying that internships, within the Nigerian context, is simply dignified slavery. It is simply viewed employers looking for free labour, and not adequately providing value in exchange for the services of the intern.

The proponents of internships strongly believe that it is the sure way for the inexperienced professional to get their foot in the door.

This was elaborately illustrated a few days ago when Director General, Bureau of Public Service Reforms, Dr. Joe Abah shared an inspiring story on Twitter supporting the role of internships.


Having read this inspiring story, it is important to note that the lady in question was determined to work hard. She was given an opportunity and she took it and ran with it.

Also, from the story, it is clear that the environment was a positive one that encouraged her confidence.

In conclusion, finding the right balance is key; good work ethic, knowing your passion, finding the place that works for you, and a determination to succeed.

Own it, young professionals! OWN IT!

We’ll leave you with this inspirational message from Bilikiss Abiola of Wecyclers.


  1. Meee

    August 6, 2017 at 9:42 pm

    Very nice story, but you have to remember the Company she worked in had a good environment where she could showcase her skills and was rewarded in the long run. The problem with 80% of Nigerian Companies is that the environment is not conducive and people are not always paid in accordance to the services/skills they provide and if you provide your service free, all the better for them and best believe your status will not change anytime soon.

    • Cyn

      August 7, 2017 at 12:28 pm

      Yes and also the lady most certainly has someone supporting her financially, Paying transport in Lagos to go to an unpaid job is not something everyone can do. She knows she is going back home to shelter, food and a warm bed. Not everyone has that. I’m sure a lot of ppl will work for ‘Free’ if they are given a place to stay (as small as the gateman house) and maybe one meal at work….

  2. Smh

    August 6, 2017 at 10:24 pm

    These are the kind of things that make the bodies of older people to shake with joy. Any opportunity for free labor and taking advantage of the youth while living lavish lives and destroying the country for us. They want you to have bachelors and masters degree that cost money time and effort to obtain and when it’s time for them to pay you they will start talking about humility. Very very wicked and evil people. This is why there is so much brain drain going on. The people who can find any means are trying their best to leave the country so they can go to other countries and be second class citizens but at least make enough money to sustain themselves and live a decent life. This country is a disaster.

    • Nuna

      August 7, 2017 at 8:01 am

      You have to look at the bigger picture. Unpaid internships are very common in developed countries. Its a step further to where you want to be. Its a humbling experience. You see how the lady did odd jobs that most MSc holders wont do. And how it exposed her to people who wouldn’t have known her. The problem with us is that many people are so myopic and fail to see ahead and then go on to complain about the govt. Then the cycle continues

    • Chrisyinks

      August 7, 2017 at 12:37 pm

      Exactly, well said Smh!

      @ Joe Abah, Sir, It’s a great flaw for a masters degree holder to prove her worth by photocopying, making tea and running office errands for your organization. When someone chooses to work for free, the barest minimum to afford such person is cognate work experience that would further such person’s career aspirations. And that she had to forgo her well earned sense of entitlement says much of the broken system you are supposed to be fixing rather than praising. Unpaid internships may be a common thing in the developed world, but also know that they have a stronger social security support system. And still with such support system, they still face the problem where human resources are not as valued as other factors of production: capital, technology. Who gives free capital or technology to any business?

    • Smh

      August 7, 2017 at 7:18 pm

      @nuna unapaid internship are common in certain industries such as fashion, media and arts. Also nobody with a masters degree is doing any unpaid internship. But even for undergrads something like accounting issa no! Nobody will spend $50,000 per year on any science, business, tech degree and come and be doing boy boy for you. Even worse Nigerians are so rude and they will now be treating you like trash

  3. Chichi

    August 6, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    Well the story is indeed inspiring but from my small experience of living in Nigeria for awhile I understand why many see obstacles first. Just like in the UK, many who do internships are still the people who are fully supported by parents and guardians financially, so if you can’t be supported in this way then it’s hard. Not to say it can’t be done, where there is a will, there is a way. But as the write up says when you have seen many before treated like glorified slaves in the name of internships then again that will is not so strong. Its also convenient that the. company was international which quite frankly says a lot.

    Having said all that, I had a stint in Lagos working for free for two weeks and it did get me far afterwards, and I have no regrets it did open up doors and I loved what I was doing, But I may of felt different if I went longer than two weeks with all the transport and feeding money and had nothing come of it. In the end it’s what you make of it. I absolutely agree with one thing though, don’t wait to be given things to do, you may wait forever which is actually worse. Speak up and ask to do everything and anything, you may not work out for that particular company but be highly recommended elsewhere.

  4. Acct

    August 7, 2017 at 1:45 am

    I am an accounting graduate and would like to intern for any interested firm.

  5. kenz

    August 7, 2017 at 7:57 am

    At the end of the day you still have to know someone who knows someone to get a chance to work for FREE chaiiii……..”A childhood friend of yours referred her to you…. typical Nigeria Situation

    • Nene

      August 7, 2017 at 10:09 am


    • molarah

      August 8, 2017 at 12:26 am

      But let’s be honest, don’t we all know someone? Even the driver knows his oga, and the nanny knows her madam. All they need to do is drop hints to them and their friends about that daughter or son of theirs that has a good degree in Mass Communication and has not gotten any work for a whole year now. We can moan about the connection-driven system, or we can decide to work it to our advantage. The choice is ours.

  6. mama zee

    August 7, 2017 at 11:35 am

    my dear its not just a Nigerian thing. All over the world, things work better when there is a referral. Lets just pray to get to that point when you will be the one giving the referrals and not taking them.

  7. IG @affordable_luxury001

    August 7, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    so nice!…. @affordable_luxury001 (IG) Sells the nicest customized throwpillows, beddings, phonecases and more!

  8. Han

    August 7, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    Very nice story. My story…….After graduation, there was no job. I literally walked into an office, with all boldness just seeking for something to keep me busy and asked for a job as an unpaid intern, It did work. This was a case that no one referred me and I actually did not know anyone at all at the organisation. The HR walked with me to the Procurement department, introduced to the Procurement Manager and there and then I started as an intern in the organisation. An organisation with more than 500 staff. I did photocopying, made sure i came very early to work, helped my co workers with assignments they couldn’t carry out, typed letters etc. It was my joy to go up and down the stairs to drop correspondences to the general mangers. I got to learn a lot and also impressed the managers and my co workers. I did not get my first paid job there but, I actually applied for my first paid job through email from there. I now have a strong network of professionals through my interning in that organisation Yes its possible without ‘knowing someone’ , as long as you know your God and trust him, it supersedes everything.

  9. zzzzzzzzzzz

    August 7, 2017 at 1:04 pm

    The problem with Nigeria is that when you do internship in a company, you automatically become a housemaid. I salute her humility but from my own experince and with the way I was treated I may not encourage anyone to go that route

  10. IG- @thababybwoy

    August 7, 2017 at 1:47 pm

    To begin with, it depends on the firm you are working with and also how financially stable you are to consider working for free because food,house rent and clothing money no dey fall from tree..

    • molarah

      August 8, 2017 at 12:31 am

      With the point you’ve raised, I think its important for young people to get into the internship system early. Start from when you are in year 1, during your holidays, and keep going till year 4. Take learnings from each summer internship so you know which companies are crappy and which ones are worth slaving for. By the time you are in year 4, if you are good you would have gotten past the “boy-boy” phase and probably started earning something significant, and you yourself would have a good number of industry connections you can reach out to for work placement once you graduate.

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