- How can I make the most out of my internship?
- What about Financial Aid and Work Study?
- Should I get paid?
- What if things change at my internship and I won't be able to do what I expected?
- What if my employer doesn't offer the opportunities I expected and I'm doing "no-brainer" work?
- What if I have a disability?
- What if I feel I am being treated badly at my internship?
- What if I am hurt at my internship?
- What if I see somebody doing something illegal?
How can I make the most out of my internship?
It mostly boils down to ten easy steps.
- Be punctual. Arrive on time, even a few minutes early is best. Being willing to put in the (literal) time speaks to your work ethic!
- Be dependable. Following through with assignments and meeting deadlines are important characteristics to develop.
- Step up to the plate. Take the initiative to follow up and go the extra mile.
- Be discreet. Don't be a gossip. Never discuss organization business and people in detail or by name in public places where strangers can overhear. Even in private, be discreet with outsiders about organization politics, problems, and business.
- Make friends. Find ways to get along, even with the most difficult co-worker. Always do your best to make it a pleasant work environment.
- Anticipate problems. When your responsibilities depend on assistance from others, make sure they know and understand what you are requesting. Make sure you follow through and check on whether the work has been done or if any problems have come up.
- Understand "boss" language. "If it isn't too much trouble..." means, "Do it, the sooner the better." "If I may make a suggestion…." means, "Do it this way…" "I don't want to rush you." means, "Hurry up." Learn the cues your boss uses.
- Get a feel for timing. When wanting to make a request, be sensitive to workplace issues and making your request at the right time. Many factors - the boss's mood, the success of your last project, the company's latest earning report - can make the difference between a positive or a negative response.
- Improve yourself. Read industry and trade publications. It is important to know what is going on in your career field and related publications will help you keep you informed. This will also show you are interested in your job, your organization, your career and the importance of current information.
- Be honest. This should be a gimme, but don't steal or lie to your employer. It only makes you look untrustworthy and undependable.
What about Financial Aid and Work Study?
Students receiving financial aid should check with the Financial Aid Office prior to accepting a paid internship. Internship income is taxable and could impact your eligibility for financial aid next year. Students on financial aid must take care that they register for their internship in a timely manner (before mid-semester, preferably before the end of drop/add period) to be sure that your financial aid for the current term is not jeopardized. Further, completion of your internship needs to be in time for a grade to be entered before the start of the next term to ensure release of your financial aid as expected. Communicating with the Financial Aid Office will usually eliminate any problems. Students with Work Study as part of their financial aid award are in an advantageous position to secure a paid position. If you find a Work Study position that is related to your career field, it may qualify as an internship as well. Visit with your faculty advisor/sponsor and/or the Academic Internship Office to find out.
Should I get paid?
Internships may be paid or unpaid. Because you are expected to perform to typical professional expectations and be a productive member of the staff, if you are working at least half time, you should be paid. Academic Interns usually receive an hourly wage. Some nonprofit, social services agencies can only offer unpaid internships. The Internship Program strives to develop compensated positions. Compensation may be other than an hourly wage. Consider all "perks" and in-kind support as compensation. This includes parking passes or discounts, bus passes, lunch, travel allowance, scholarship or tuition reimbursement, etc. Employers determine the compensation for their interns. Compensation will be based on the level of responsibility and the qualifications of the candidate as the employer perceives them. It is much more likely, however, that you will be paid for a full-time experience than for half-time or less than half-time. Often, if you have Work Study as part of your financial aid package, that can help trigger a part-time position to be paid. The Academic Internship Office can assist you with Work Study positions. If you are applying for a paid position, you may be asked what pay you would accept. Do not give specific figures. Consider what qualifications you bring and what you still have to learn. The best approach is to simply suggest that you hope to be paid at a level commensurate with your training and background experience. Remember that, unless your family owns the business, you will have to start at the bottom and work up.
What if things change at my internship and I won't be able to do what I expected?
While the Learning Agreement is firm, it isn't granite and can be changed. Just contact your faculty sponsor and discuss the changes that have occurred and offer a new set of objectives. Submit them in writing to your faculty sponsor and/or the Academic Internship Office. We will attach them to your Learning Agreement so we know what changes have taken place and you will be responsible only for the new Learning Plan and the new objectives. It is your responsibility to notify the faculty and/or the Academic Internship Office of any change in your internship position or if any changes need to be made in your Learning Agreement. All changes to the Learning Agreement must be approved by your sponsoring faculty. What if things change at my internship and my job disappears and I lose my internship? Notify both your faculty sponsor and the Academic Internship Office immediately. If it has happened early in the semester, we will work with you and do our utmost to find you a new position for the remainder of the term. A new Learning Agreement will need to be completed. If we are not successful in transitioning you to a new position, an "I" (Incomplete) or "IP" (In Progress) grade would be entered pending a new placement that would provide a complete internship experience in a subsequent semester.
What if my employer doesn't offer the opportunities I expected and I'm doing "no-brainer" work?
First, it is your responsibility to discuss this with your supervisor. Call to their attention the objectives and the methods and resources on the Learning Agreement and your need to be working toward achieving them. If your efforts are fruitless, notify your faculty sponsor and/or the Academic Internship Office as soon as possible. This is where your Learning Agreement comes into play. The employer signed the Learning Agreement, which in essence is saying they will provide an experience that will allow you to achieve your objectives. With a quality Learning Plan and a well-done Learning Agreement, we can use this document to leverage the employer to provide the type of experience necessary to qualify as an internship. Usually this can be done easily without compromising your relationship with your supervisor.
What if I have a disability?
If you have a disability that will need accommodation, when you disclose that need is up to you. If it is an obvious physical disability, it is best to address it immediately. If accommodations are not needed for the interview, but you know the interviewer will be wondering how you will be able to accomplish the challenges of the position, it is best to respond to what may be an unasked question in a straight-forward and friendly manner. That will help the entire interview be more comfortable and personal, and will more likely open the employer to a positive consideration for your success in the job. If you have questions about how and/or when to disclose an "invisible" disability, please feel welcome to come to the Academic Internship Office in Ramstad 112 or the Disabilities Support Services, Ramstad 106 for guidance.
What if I feel I am being treated badly at my internship?
If you are uncomfortable in your position, let someone know. You should visit with your supervisor first unless it is your supervisor who is causing your discomfort and you are "afraid" to approach them. Let your faculty sponsor or the Academic Internship Office know as soon as possible. We will guide you or step in to help address the situation. The most important thing is to let someone know what's happening.
What if I am hurt at my internship?
Students are encouraged to check their insurance coverage before beginning their internship. Some employers require proof of insurance before you can begin your experience. It is very rare that a student is injured on an internship. The employer's insurance and/or the university's student insurance usually cover any accident typical to the internship workplace. If you need to provide additional insurance from your personal coverage, a call to your agent is usually all that is necessary. If necessary, a rider may be added to your active policy for short term coverage at a very low cost. Your agent can also provide a copy of your coverage should you need to provide that to your employer. Insurance and liability coverage is the responsibility of the student. Visit with your employer to determine what coverage they offer interns. If you have a paid position, you will be covered under Washington State Labor and Industries. Some volunteer/unpaid positions are also listed under the employer's L&I. Sometimes an employer will require an agreement with the university regarding liability. If your employer does, contact the Academic Internship Office. This is usually a routine matter and is not a cause for any concern. Sometimes an employer will request proof of insurance from the student. Your regular insurance company can provide the documentation the employer requires and usually involves a simple phone call request to your insurance agent's office. If you have any questions regarding insurance or liability, please contact the Academic Internship Office.
What if I see somebody doing something illegal?
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You should notify your supervisor or other appropriate personnel in the organization as soon as possible.