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Don’t Get Taken Advantage of as an Intern

In an Anthropology class at California State University last semester, a professor was teaching about power dynamics.  Each student made a list of the people who have power over us.  Then, we made a list of power we have over others.  In every instance where a person has power over us, we have power over them as we are giving them power.  For example, in a classroom, the professor holds power as it is his job to conduct the class, but the students have power as well.  They have power in numbers.  They can get the professor fired if they feel the instructor is being disrespectful, dishonest, unprofessional or what have you.  As we head into internships this summer, paid and unpaid, let us remember the dynamics of power.

Many companies, especially large corporations, have been accused of taking advantage of interns.  Sending students off on coffee runs day after day without any interest in helping them grow in their professional lives is not an unpaid internship; that is an errand boy.  It is true that we all need to start somewhere.  Be sure to know and see the difference between starting at the bottom and getting taken advantage of.  It is up to you to decide whether you are being treated fairly, no one will do this for you.

Some unpaid internships are worth your time and energy if you are honing your skills and learning under experts.  To be sure that you are not wasting your time, be sure to ask your future employer what exactly your responsibilities will be.  Being asked to take lunch orders is a red flag.  Answering phones however, is a task that falls under the “do what you have to do to get started” category.

There are early signs that can indicate if an internship is going to kick start your career or turn you into a barista.  How long does it take for the company to contact you?  If you ask your future boss a question, a month should not go by before you figure an answer.  On the same note, do not expect the world to stop what they are doing to cater to your every beck and call.

A word on payment: do not be fooled by the words “paid internship.”  Paid internship does not necessarily mean well-paid internship.  It is like when you see those sales racks in the mall of things $5 and up.  Theoretically, they can put a $50 tee shirt there and not be lying.  Will you be getting hourly pay, making commission, per article or per whatever it is that you will be producing?  Will you be getting paid as a stipend at the end, receive monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly payments?  These are all important questions to ask when speaking with a future employer.

Sometimes after the internship begins, red flags arise.  Do you constantly feel as though you are being talked down upon?  Do you feel the people you are working with have any interest in helping you?  Don’t get me wrong; the person you are interning for is not a Guru, a teacher, nor a babysitter, but they should show some interest in helping you learn the ropes, especially to start.

If you feel as though you are getting mistreated, your first step toward solving the problem should be taking a deep breath.  Not much good comes from anger.  Talk with someone you trust to figure out if you are being played or need to suck it up and get to work.  Once you have decided that you need to talk with your boss, you then need to choose how to do so.

If your check is late, a polite email is appropriate.  If you feel you are being disrespected or degraded in some way, an eight-page text is not the way to go.  Ask for a meeting with your boss.  Calmly explain your situation.  Be sure to have a plate full of moxie before you sit him or her down as it will be one of those times in your life where you almost pee your pants.  Deep breath, talk calmly but make your point clear.

Let’s try to fix things before we blow them up, although if you come into problem after problem or feel completely disrespected, be sure to do what is best for you.  It is easy to get wrapped up doing what’s best for others, and generally you are ultimately benefitting, but remember that if your not happy yourself, you won’t be able to please anyone else.

-TravelBug

The College Graduate Checklist

The following is a guest post from Noël Rozny of myFootPath.com

Right about now, you’re probably crawling out from underneath a pile of library books, term papers, and exam notes, feeling like you can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. And you’re right, the school year is almost over, which means that if you’re a senior, you’ll be graduating soon. Congratulations!

While you should reward yourself for completing your degree program, don’t take a break for too long. There are many other details that need your attention now that school is winding down. To make it easier for you, we’ve put together a College Graduate checklist that will help make the transition in the “real world” a little bit easier.

5 Things Every College Grad Needs After Graduation

Job Search Tools

You might have already started your job search, but if not, now’s the time. For a successful job search, you’ll need a polished resume, 3-4 professional references, and a strong professional network. If you’ve never compiled a resume, you should be able to get some free guidance at your school’s career center. Professors, former employers, and student organization supervisors all make great references, so check in with those individuals now to see if they’ll speak on your behalf. As for networking, start with references, colleagues, coaches, and anyone else you’ve collaborated with in the past four years. Contact them about your job search, connect with them on LinkedIn, and pick their brain for any tips or job opportunities they know of.

An Apartment

If you’ve been living in the dorms the past four years, one of the first things you need to do before graduation is line up a place to live. Finding an apartment that fits your needs and price range can take a few weeks, so get started now. Make a list of what you want, what you don’t want, and start contacting apartment companies. Don’t forget that you’ll need money for a security deposit (anywhere from a month to two month’s rent), basic furniture (this is where futons come in handy) and to get the utilities (electricity, water, gas and cable) turned on in your name.

Health Insurance

While you were in college, chances are that you were on your parent’s health insurance. The good news is that you can stay on you’re their plan for a few more years, until you’re 26, so if the internship or job you’re starting after graduation doesn’t offer a plan, you’re covered. If you do decide to switch insurance plans to what you’re employer is offering, make sure there are no gaps in your coverage, as that can currently affect your ability to receive treatment for pre-existing conditions.

A Work Wardrobe

Even if you luck out and land a job at a company with a relaxed dress code, you’ll still need a good suit or two for client meetings, corporate events, and business trips. Business clothes are expensive, so maximize your dollars by buying one or two suits in neutral colors, like black or gray, and variety of dress shirts in a different colors.

Retirement Plans

I know retirement probably seems very far away. But now is actually a crucial time in your retirement planning. Putting away a set amount each month, no matter how small, can have a huge impact on how much you’ll have when that golden day arrives. If you’re employer offers a 401(k) or similar plan, getting started should be pretty easy. If not, you can meet with a financial advisor and get started on your own.

I know the items on this checklist might seem overwhelming, but with the help of those who have gone before you (parents, an older sibling, an aunt or uncle) it’s all very doable, and the sooner you start, the easier your transition will be. Good luck!

Noël Rozny is Web Editor & Content Manager at myFootpath, a career and education resource for students of all ages. Visit myFootpath.com to find the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or PhD program that’s right for you.