Posted tagged ‘internship question’

Legal or not? Why you need to look beyond paid vs. unpaid to assess your internship

September 24, 2010

This past spring and summer, there was a lot of debate over paid vs. unpaid internships as well as the Department of Labor’s internship guidelines without much resolution. What about reframing the question so that salary is taken out of the discussion?

Heather Huhman, an experienced hiring manager and career expert, does a great job of highlighting five other factors to consider when evaluating whether an internship is legal or not, including opportunities for mentorship, networking, and recognition. Whether you’re considering a fall, winter, or spring internship or are just starting to think about your summer intern options, this is a great post to check out to help guide your thinking.


Q. My internship has just ended, and I felt it was a waste of time. Should I tell everyone what I think?

August 6, 2010

A. Thank you for asking a very important question. Other interns may have come to the same conclusion about their experiences. Before you decide how to handle the situation, evaluate your internship and decide why it was a waste of time. Then, air your views accordingly. The following tips may help you put that negative experience behind you and look forward to future internships with a positive attitude:

  • Evaluating your internship: Were your expectations realistic? You may have misunderstood the scope or duties of the internship in your haste to procure one. If so, that’s your problem. You could have been overqualified for the position and found the hours dragged and you were bored. If so, consider yourself more advanced in your skills than you had previously thought. Take consolation in the fact that you’re ahead of the other interns. However, if the duties or internship description changed, resulting in assignments that you felt were a waste of time, then the company is at fault here. Were you given unexpected assignments that annoyed you, such as getting coffee or making copies? You were probably too polite to say no, but you’ve built up resentment against the company, and understandably so. But someone needs to know how you feel.
  • Expressing your feelings:  There is no sense in telling anyone at the company that the internship was a waste of your time because it’s too late to do anything about it. Also, keep in mind that you still want a good reference letter.  You do owe it to future interns to confide your disappointment to your school’s career center or counselor who set up the internship for you. To be fair, explain your evaluation of why the internship was not a success. The counselor will appreciate your information, ensuring that the next intern is better suited to the position or deciding that the company is not a good internship site for the school’s students. If a student asks you about your internship, stop and think about your response. If it’s a student who is considering the same internship, you might want to give your honest opinion. However, if it’s an idle question that will only generate gossip, then it’s better to simply shrug off the inquiry.
  • Looking ahead:  Fortunately, most students are expecting to experience multiple internships in their academic careers. Let’s hope that all your other internships will be great. You might want to spend some time on, browsing through thousands of internships, searching for the right one for you. Enter the keywords and watch all the internships come up. Then, apply for the ones that appeal to you, giving yourself plenty of options. Be choosy. And be sure to start your search months ahead of time. Also, check in with your career center at school. After your earlier negative experience, the staff will work extra hard to ensure that your next internship is a positive one.

Q. My internship has just ended, but I want to keep in contact with the company when I’m back in school. What can I do?

August 2, 2010

A. Here’s a great opportunity for you to be proactive. Rather than asking the company or your busy internship supervisor to take his/her limited time and figure out your options, develop a game plan yourself and present it to the company. You’ll be respected for your creativity and forward thinking. You might find some of the following tips helpful:

  1. Self-designed assignments:  Based on what you’ve learned during your internship, devise an assignment for yourself that will add value to the company. For example, if you’ve been evaluating data, you could offer to write reports on the results. Review what you’ve learned about the company and examine any areas that could benefit from new material, such as a history update on an old building. Another area to explore is research. All companies need to have more research done and usually don’t have enough staff to do the work. After you’ve decided on the best assignment, write up a proposal and a timeline and present it to the appropriate person for approval.
  2. Intern support:  Companies love interns but are often overwhelmed by the responsibility of training and monitoring interns. Why not offer to train your replacement intern as a way to gain favor with the company? Or you could volunteer to write a guide for new interns, answering typical intern questions on company dress code, policy, and corporate culture. Another suggestion would be to start an alumni intern newsletter online, which would also serve as a marketing tool for the company. You may wish to start an intern blog, open to current, future, and former interns as a clearing house to improve the internship program.
  3. Company representative:  If the company attends college career fairs, you could offer to go to these events and tell students why you liked your internship at the company. Or you could spread the word about the joys of the company internship back on your own campus, helping recruit outstanding candidates for the company. The company may sell products to college students, which opens another door for you to act as a company representative on your own campus.

Q. I didn’t receive pay or credit for my summer internship, so how can I make it benefit me?

July 30, 2010

A. Many internships don’t offer pay or credit, but you’ve still made a solid investment in your career future. Here are some ways that you can maximize your internship experience:

  • Networking:  The most effective way to find other opportunities for yourself is networking, which is acknowledged as the primary method to get a job or an internship. A July 20 article in The New York Times says that dozens of young people with connections to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s friends, business associates and government appointees have been awarded internships at City Hall. You’ve probably started a good network for yourself at your internship. Make a list of everyone at your internship and find out if he/she can suggest any other internship possibilities. Keep in contact with people through a social media outlet. Remember, you’re part of their network, too.
  • Next internship:  Your experience at your summer internship is a great building block for your next internship. Now that you have mastered the art of being a professional in a work setting you’re ready to advance up the ladder. With  excellent recommendations in hand, you can apply for more advanced assignments at more prestigious firms. A potential internship supervisor knows that you’re a proven quantity and will “fit in” nicely to another internship. Also, your past summer internship may have opened your eyes to the fact that you don’t really like that field or industry. Now you have time to change your major and explore other fields before it’s too late in your academic career.
  • Course paper or class project:  Every summer internship provides endless resources for a course paper or class project. And you’ve already done the research if you use your material from one of your internship assignments. You can incorporate case studies or company reports (unless they’re confidential) to support your paper. Or if you are a member of a class team that is instructed to collaborate with a company on a project, you could ask your former internship company to fill that requirement. Another way in which you can tap back into your internship is to ask someone at your internship to be a speaker for a campus event. You’ll soon see that an unpaid, no-credit internship is a priceless experience.

Q. Are there internships available during the school year?

July 23, 2010

A. Yes, lots of them in lots of different places. And since many students only take summer internships, you may have a better chance of getting an internship during the school year. The good news is that more and more companies want to keep interns coming all year-round. After the company educates an intern supervisor and sets up a working program, it makes good sense to maintain the routine—and capitalize on the extra help—365 days a year. Here are some of your options: 

  • Start with your own school, especially if you live on campus. Begin at the career center, asking the staff about on-campus internships. Or visit the different departments, such as your major department, in which you’d like to intern, present your resume, and ask about openings.
  • Next, scout out the surrounding companies that are geographically within reach by public transportation or car. Again, check in with your career center about local internships and make application. You may want to request an information interview with a company about internships in order to get your foot in the door.
  • Look into a virtual internship (Check out these great virtual opportunities!), which allows students to sample different fields or concentrate on a niche industry while still going to classes and working. The most common ones are in information technology, software development, research, sales, marketing, blogging, and social media. If you’re a self-reliant, self-starter who is comfortable with Web conferences, emails, and phone calls, a virtual internship during the school year might work well for you.
  • Create your own internship by networking with other students, faculty, and staff professionals at your school to discover any potential internship sites. Many companies that have never had professional internship programs are interested in setting them up. If you locate a local company in which you’d like to intern during the school year, but it has no established program, suggest that your school help the company initiate a good program. 
  • Explore the opportunity of an internship during the school year in a company in a different locale. If it’s a full-time internship with academic credit, you may want to talk with your academic advisors about rearranging your classes or going to school an extra semester in order to take advantage of a great internship. Keep an open mind, and the right internship during the school year will be yours.

For an intern’s perspective on doing an internship during the school year, check out the new Eye of the Intern blog, “Tracey’s Angle: Is a school-year internship worth it?“.

Q. How can I best update my resume to showcase my new internship accomplishments?

July 16, 2010

A. You want to highlight your new achievements in your resume, emphasizing your duties and the resulting benefits from your efforts. The reader should understand how you added value to the company. Yet you also want to keep your resume to one page in most cases. Here are a few tips on how to update and improve your resume:

  1. Start your Experience or Career Progression section off with the new entry regarding your recent internship. List the company first, the department in which you worked, and your general assignment. Then, make a list of your accomplishments, such as “Created survey and distributed it to 500 customers, generating new data that resulted in improved service.” Design as many bullets as necessary, starting with an action verb and ending with a result.
  2. Feel free to shorten the older entries to gain more space for the new internship accomplishments. You can either tighten up each line or eliminate old items, especially ones that are not relevant to your current career goals. You may also want to remove other non-relevant items, such as listing reading, golfing, etc. as hobbies.
  3. Make a list of the new skills that you’ve learned at your internship, including IT or computer skills or new software expertise, and add them to your Additional Information or Skills section of your resume. If your internship required extensive travel or if you attended any conferences, list them in your resume, too.
  4. Rewrite your Summary of Qualifications at the top of your resume to highlight your new skills. You may have to cut out some of the older information about yourself, but you may be able to add new soft skills, such as “verbal and written communication skills with ability to collaborate with team to reach goals” or “decisive, direct, and results driven to succeed.” Your revised resume will reflect more about your work ethic as well as your new accomplishments.  

For more information on writing and updating your resumes, check out the Intern Tool Kit on

Q. What takeaways should I have from my internship to show what I worked on?

July 6, 2010

A. Good for you for thinking ahead! You do need to collect examples of any project on which you worked in order to build your portfolio. Whether your major is marketing, finance, design, nursing, or whatever, you want do have a strong record of your accomplishments. Here are some tips on what to collect: 

  1. Documents:  These items can be reports, surveys, technical problems you helped solve, sales materials you helped write or design, or a press release or article about a special event. Your company may have also featured you as a new intern in an employee newsletter, so save several copies.
  2. Photos:  Graphic depiction of your efforts, showing you at your desk or with co-workers, is tangible evidence of your involvement. Make sure you document your presence at both work and social events. You may want to include informal photos of colleagues to illustrate the quality of people with whom you’ve worked.
  3. Company materials:  You can impress future internship or job supervisors by letting them know that you’ve worked with companies that accomplish their goals. You want to be associated with successful companies, demonstrating that you bring added value to your new internship or job.  Collect company annual reports, newsletters, brochures, press releases, etc. to demonstrate the high quality of the company with which you’ve interned.
  4. Correspondence:  Letters of reference or recommendation, thank-you notes from employees or final evaluation forms can go in your portfolio. Your Career Center or professors might also have relevant letters or correspondence that promote you as an outstanding student. If you’ve written an excellent paper on some aspect of your internship, which earned you a top grade, include that, too.
  5. Online exhibits:  If your internship included lots of online or IT work rather than paper assignments, you might want to develop a section listing websites, printing out materials, or even producing a DVD or CD to showcase your work.
  6. Presentation:  Consider asking the company for a professional folder or binder with the company name in which you can display the above items. If necessary, create labels and descriptions to expand on the materials. Be sure to make copies of all your items to protect against someone misplacing your portfolio or not returning it to you after an interview.