Interns Unite!

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Interns, do not go gently into the night! Don’t quietly sit in a remote corner and suffer through boredom or neglect. Don’t let them treat you that way. Don’t spend all day looking at Facebook (unless you work at Facebook) when you are supposed to be learning something. Speak up.

The plight of the intern is worse than I thought. On an earlier LinkedIn Influencer post I asked those who work with new interns to take those less experienced under their wing. All that I asked for is to take them out to lunch, bring them to meetings, in short – JUST INCLUDE THEM.

It turns out that the interns read the post and really liked it because it exposed the truth. I hit a nerve for the interns based on the comments and emails I received. But the intended audience, those who are hosting the interns, might not have read it. So interns, you are in charge of your own destiny. For those interns out there who are suffering, here are some things to consider…

  • If you are not learning anything and you are not getting paid, find a different internship. You have nothing to lose except a lot of boring hours wondering why anyone would ever work in a place like this. If you think it’s an internship that will look good on your resume, it is probably still not worth it.
  • If you are in an unpaid internship and everyone around you is getting paid for doing the exact same work, you are being used. An internship is not a free pass for employers. If you think you should be getting paid, say so. If you love the work and are learning a bunch, be prepared to face a hard decision if the answer on pay is “No”.
  • If you don’t have anything to do, find the busiest person in the place and see if they need help. If that busy persons says, “It’s easier for me to do it myself than to train you.” Your response should be, “That’s why I am here. I will learn fast and make your life easier.”
  • Take the initiative to take someone out to lunch. Offer to pay. (They won’t let you.) Or when everyone else goes out to lunch, tag along, invited or not.
  • Hang out with the other interns, if there are any, and figure out who is doing cool work and ask to be transferred into that group.
  • Be an adult. If nothing good is happening, schedule a meeting with the intern coordinator or your boss. Gently say that you appreciate the pay (if there is any) but you are here to learn and get some experience and if there is any way to make that happen, you would appreciate it.
  • Create equations in your head like: I will get the coffee if I am included in the meeting where they are drinking the coffee. Or, I will do this low level work really well in order to show them I can do a lot more. Or, if this doesn’t get better soon, I will quit and do what I really want, pay or not.

There are lots of ways to turn a bad situation into a better one. Interns are just too easy to ignore – that’s the problem you are trying to fix. So speak up. Don’t put yourself in the situation where you will look back someday and say, I should have said something.

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