How to Survive in New York as an Unpaid Intern (and still be Fabulous)

Friday, August 30, 2013 Dalton Primeaux

Instagram: @djprimeaux
The job market is tough. You need work experience just to get...well, more work experience. It's an endless, ruthless cycle that makes all young twenty-somethings that are now entering the job market feel lost. One of the ways many college educated men and women are getting this much needed experience is through internships. It's a great way to spice up their resume, grow in knowledge of whatever industry they are trying to enter, and meet people that could influence their future employment. The problem is most of these internships are unpaid. 


Many young people flock to New York City hoping to snag a great internship and start their ascent into a lucrative career. So, how are these hopeful interns supposed to survive life in Manhattan, a grand city known for its grand expenses, on a zero dollar income? Here are some tips contributed from actual New York City interns who are making that chance of a lifetime work out just fine.*


  • First off, Decide if the internship is worth it. Will you actually be gaining experience and learning during the internship? Some sneaky business people think "intern" means "slave." This is obviously not true! Unless an agency or firm is in-house make sure it has at least 5 clients. And, unless it's an online company, there should be an office. If not… don't waste your time. You can usually feel if the position or company is right for you. Go with your gut. If it doesn't feel right, don't do it. 

  • Also, you have to evaluate your financial support. Whether it's a savings or mommy and daddy back home, will it get you through the three to six months at your internship? In New York, unless your daddy is Donald Trump, most likely not. So, don't be afraid to take a part-time job on your days off. 

  • If you are on the go a lot and don't have time to cook, or maybe you don't have a full kitchen in your tiny studio apartment, or maybe you just don't know how to cook. Most likely, you are eating out almost every meal. When you are pinching pennies as a broke intern you will not be able to dine at the Four Seasons every night. Realize sometimes choosing cheap over "healthy" isn't a bad thing. There are so many bodegas, delis, and pizza joints with very inexpensive food. Like, 2 Bros. Pizza (which has at least seven different locations in the city): 2 slices and a can of soda for 2.75. It's a steal!

  • Don't be too picky about size when apartment shopping, be picky about location. Living close to a subway or bus station is more important for a busy intern. You will hardly be spending time in your room anyway. You have networking to do.
  • When it comes to mass transit, which can be pretty tricky sometimes, apps like Embark and HopStop will always come in handy. These apps will help you figure out which subway or bus lines you need to take to get to your destination, if there are faster routes to take, and it will update you if there is a delay or re-route/detour due to emergencies or construction.

 High Line in Chelsea
  • Don't think you have to buy your wardrobe at Bengdorf'sBarney's, or Bendel's to be fabulous. Try staying up to date with designer samples sales (there's an app for that), or even map out high-end consignment shops in your area, like Greene Street on W Broadway. You can still show off your love for labels and not spend a fortunate.

  • A big part of being fabulous is feeling confident, staying healthy, and looking great. But, there's no need for expensive gym memberships when you have the beautiful parks of New York City. Running the reservoir in Central Park or walking the High Line in Chelsea can keep both you and your wallet healthy.

  • You are still young, and it's important to still have fun before life gets too serious. Nightlife in NYC is a huge deal. It's a great stress reliever and a great way to meet people, but it can be rather costly. That's why making friends with promoters is a great investment. Or, try using apps like Happy Houred to find great drink deals or happy hours around the city.

Ava Lounge, Dream Hotel
  • Always take advantage of freebies and free food. Parties or events usually mean free food and/or drinks. Take advantage of that. Schmooze with the right people and you'll be invited to tons of events, or just keep up with gallery and bar openings by reading local newspapers. There's always something to be celebrated in New York City. Manhattan may be expensive at times, but it doesn't mean you can't experience all the island has to offer. There are so many free festivals and events throughout the year you can partake in. Check out TimeOut New York's list of free things to do in the city.


Remember, this internship may be rough at first, but it's just the beginning. Amazing things are  sure to come your way. In the meantime, enjoy your time in the city. And remember never be afraid to ask for help, always introduce yourself when surrounded by new people, dress appropriately, oh, and ask for compensated travel during work.


Love and Fashion,

Dalton





*Special thanks to these fabulous ladies and gentleman: Lauren Carissimi, Francesca Damato, Emily Erath, Fernando Snelling; and the other new yorkers who survived there NYC internships and chose to share their wisdom with our young readers.