Working in a professional environment is great and productive, but the glamor of it all eventually fades, especially if it is an unpaid internship. There are do’s and don’ts that go into each internship. Whether you are given a lot of work or if you are simply the coffee person, it’s important to remember that everything you do in that unpaid environment is monitored. The interns that go into work and treat it like an actual job are the ones that have the glowing recommendations for future internships and potential careers.

My first two internships while in college were unpaid. I will admit that I had some rollercoaster weeks while I interned. Some days would be very busy and productive and then other days I would find myself staring at the computer. I would ask for work as often as I could without seeming annoying. I remember one girl I interned with was constantly on her phone in the office and didn’t do anything productive. Note to anyone who is about to have an internship, do not do that. Being on your phone is the rudest thing that you can possibly do. I know that the temptation to look at your phone and talk to your friends is hard to resist, but take it from me, it is noticed.  If you don’t believe me, I promise that you’ll get an email about being on your phone. You don’t want to be that intern that gets directly talked to by your supervisor’s boss. That reflects badly on not only you, but on your supervisor as well.

It’s so easy to want to slack off at an unpaid job and most students will forget that experience cannot be bought. Experience from an internship is priceless because most companies will only reserve their internships for students. They do this because a company can teach the student and mold them into the employee that they need. This is a lot harder to do with older people.

If the work is minimal and the days are slow, try your best to do the work at a normal speed, check it over and then bring it to your supervisor. What I did was stay patient and ask for work every two hours if there was nothing to do. Sometimes if there’s nothing that the supervisor can give you, chances are that there is always another person in the office who could use your help. Help as many people as you can in that office because you never know who will give you their card or write you a recommendation for your next internship or job.

Another important thing to remember is that you should not take advantage of your supervisor. If they tell you to go on your lunch hour, don’t be gone for two hours. Most days I would have way less work than two other interns and it frustrated me. My supervisor would tell me to take my time at lunch, but I was careful not to. One day, I went to my supervisor and told him that I desired more responsibility. After I finished my little speech as to why I deserved more work, he gratefully gave it to me. I was relieved, but I was also a bit annoyed at myself for not doing this sooner.

You have to make it a known fact to your supervisor that you are there to work. If you are an intern that just sits at a desk and takes up space, your time is being wasted. Apply yourself and don’t be afraid of your supervisor. Remember that anything you can do for them is extremely appreciated; a small task goes a long way.

Try to treat your internship like a real job. Yes, those hours may be long and the work may be boring, but do the best that you can. That supervisor may open a door for you after you finish those tedious hours of work at the end of the summer. By the end of it all, you’ll walk out of there with something more valuable than a weekly pay; a great experience.

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