No one wants to be taken advantage of, especially at an internship. You work incredibly hard and know you’re gaining valuable insight into your potential career field. As people with little experience in the workforce, interns often jump at the chance to overwork. However, regardless of your position, you must make taking care of yourself a number one priority. Here are five signs your internship supervisor is taking advantage of you.
1. Your supervisor expects you to stay late
Working extra hours or shifts to meet a crucial deadline is normal, but if it becomes a regular occurrence, politely mention it to your supervisor, and request to be informed if this will happen again. If it does, remind them of the terms and hours you agreed upon when you started your internship, and say you cannot work overtime. Tasha Summer, a junior at George Mason University, says, “From day one of my internship, I was expected to stay after hours and finish work that over employees didn’t get to. After the fifth day, I spoke to my supervisor and let him know I was just as valuable as the other employees, and I should be given the same respect. Your time is valuable, do not let anyone take that away from you.” Take this advice to heart, and don’t be afraid to speak up.
2. You run too many errands
While the stereotype of interns retrieving coffee and mail may seem expected, there is a limit to how many errands you should be running. If the errands seem more personal, such as picking up dry cleaning and constantly running out for coffee for your supervisor, you may want to bring the issue to his or her attention. If you’re worried about a face-to-face conversation, send an email asking to discuss the issue. That way your supervisor will already be aware of your concern. Also, if you’re expected to use your own car to run errands, you should expect to receive compensation for the gas you use. Your time is valuable, and even though you’re only an intern, you should be respected like an employee. Hannah Smith, a senior at NC State University, notes, “My first internship in college involved me driving to local businesses delivering promotional material for the company I was interning for. I assumed I would receive compensation for the gas I was using, but when I brought it up to my boss, she said they wouldn’t reimburse me. I quit the next day. I knew my internship was giving me great experience for my resume, but I now value myself and my time equally.” Learning this lesson the hard way is sometimes the best work experience you give yourself.
3. Your supervisor doesn’t follow through
One of the best parts about being an intern is gaining experience and insight into a possible career field. Your internship supervisor should be providing quality feedback and insight into your work. You should expect routine check-ins, and feedback when you request it. Career counselor and career builder, Debbie Baker says, “Any internship should be treated as a learning experience. If your internship advisor is not teaching you, you have to step up to the plate and ask for more guidance. Sometimes you land a great internship and your advisor is there with you every step of the way and other times you have to work a little harder. That’s the reality of any office. Either way, your internship advisor should be following up and checking in regularly, just like any boss would.” You landed the internship, therefore, you’re qualified. Don’t hesitate to ask.
4. You’re completing the same task another employee is being paid to complete
While many internships are launching pads for a career at the same company, you should not be expected to complete the same volume of work that another employee is doing, for no compensation. While many internships require you to complete the same level of work actual employees complete, this is not your sole job, so be sure the hours you’re putting in are what you agreed upon. Your internship should give you valuable insight and hands-on experience, and ultimately benefit you and your future career.
5. You’re not included in team outings
As an intern, you are a valued member of the team, and you should be included in team functions. While some functions are for employees only, you should be allowed to enjoy getting out of the office with your department. These outings will give you opportunities to network on a new level with your colleagues and learn more about the company in a more relaxed setting. Sarah Bartee, a senior at Baylor University, states, “During one of my internships, my department would have Friday lunches out of the office. I was never invited and expected to eat and work through lunch at my desk. I found if very degrading and often times was assigned work that I needed to ask the very people eating out for lunch could only answer. So, it was a complete waste of time. After weeks of this, I casually asked my supervisor if I could join them for lunch on Friday, and much to my surprise he said, “Absolutely!” Sometimes, all it takes is just asking for what you want!” While you may not always get the response you want, it’s important to stick your neck out there and go for what you want.
Internships can give you incredible work experience, a foot in the door and help you make connections. However, if your internship advisor is making it a regular routine to commit any of these five signs, you might want to reevaluate your internship and have an open conversation with your supervisor. Good luck, collegiettes!