The Urban Dictionary defines an internship as: “An internship is when (usually a college undergraduate) goes and works for a company who can get away with paying him a very small salary or often nothing because he hasn’t graduated yet.
It’s basically just working to make someone rich and getting nothing in return – the modern equivalent of slavery, except nowadays, people are actually willing.
Person A: Hey! I got an internship with yahoo this summer!
Person B: Awesome! What will your job involve?
Person A: Correcting grammatical errors, making cups of coffee.. you know the usual – they’re paying me $50 bucks at the end of the six weeks.
Person B: That sounds fantastic! That’ll really benefit your career in the years to come.”
And my personal favourite are the hashtags that follow “#job #slavery #internship”
Luckily for me, my internship experience has been very much the opposite of this. I have slowly been given more and more responsibility and been taught skills that I will need in my next career step. I have not felt that I am a ‘slave’ to the company but rather that I am working and being given skills in return.
While it is true that most internships are unpaid, companies who take on interns should understand the two way street that is involved. As graduates or individuals about to finish university there is so much practical knowledge we are eager to learn. We have been cooped up for a minimum of three years in lecture halls, dealing with unresponsive group members and in constant fear of keeping a high GPA. We leave university both unsure of what’s to come and with an eagerness to put all our hard work into play. And yes companies should exploit this! But in the right way…
Here are my intern’s tips for having an intern:
Understand we won’t know what we’re doing overnight
Don’t bombard us with everything on day one. Slowly introduce us to your company culture and how you do things. Give us responsibility slowly to make us feel valued and remember that we may have questions so help us out every now and then.
Let us do more than just get you coffee
We are more than happy to do all we can to be valuable, so if that means getting you coffee we don’t mind as long as our job description doesn’t stop there. It is important to us that we are learning and gaining skills that we can take into the workforce so please give us tasks. I have personally enjoyed having consistency when it comes to my responsibilities. I now know what my to do list looks like and am comfortable to just get stuck in until everything is completed. This is great for the company because they no longer need to worry about these tasks.
Don’t watch over our shoulder
The main aspect I have enjoyed about my internship is not having someone obsessing over what I’m doing all the time. I have been given tasks to attempt alone and have felt comfortable asking any questions I need to get these done. At the end of the day, an intern is choosing to work for your company without pay and what they learn and do with the experience is up to them.
Make us feel like part of the team
It is known that your happiness at work is directly correlated with the effort you put in and commitment you have to your work, and being an intern is no different. Inviting us to events and meetings where we have a chance to learn, taking us for a coffee break or simply have a quick chat with us about the weekend will make us feel like a valued edition to your company.
Be our reference
Please give us or be a reference for our resume. Depending on the growth that is available at your company, we may not be around forever and a reference will aid us in taking our next career step when we decide to.