Don't Put Up with This as an Intern
Peter Vogt, Monster Senior Contributing Writer
November 03, 2009
As an intern, you’ll be the one who has to make copies, fetch snacks, pick up the boss’s dry cleaning or give the company vice president a ride to the airport. Sure, it’s demoralizing, but it’s an acceptable (if unpleasant) part of the gig.
But there are some things that even a “lowly” intern shouldn’t endure. You need to know what these situations include and what you can do about them.
Beware of Bad Behavior
You never know what sorts of circumstances you’re going to run into during your internship, but here are several potential red-flag behaviors:
You don’t have to tolerate any of these behaviors. On the contrary, you can and should do something about them, not only for your own sake but also for the benefit of other current and future interns in the organization.
Don’t Go It Alone
Fortunately, you don’t have to tackle this dicey task alone. You’ve probably got several people you can turn to for guidance and support.
The most obvious one is your school’s internship coordinator. The two of you can discuss your situation and seek “advice from the university’s office of women’s affairs, the university’s legal counsel or its risk-management office,” says Marianne Ehrlich Green, author of Internship Success and a career counselor at the University of Delaware.
But what if there is no such person at your school or you arranged your internship yourself? Seek advice from a trusted mentor or family friend, says business executive Alexandra Levit, author of They Don’t Teach Corporate in College.
“Depending on the circumstances, it may also be worth paying your company’s HR department a visit,” she says. “Sometimes, particularly in harassment or ethics cases, HR may be able to step in and quietly resolve the issue without costing you your internship.”
Get to the Point
It’s also critical for you to be clear and direct in your response to inappropriate workplace behavior, says Craig Donovan, coauthor of Internships for Dummies a professor of business at Kean University in Union, New Jersey.
“If your boss asks you to do something you feel is wrong, repeat it: ‘You really want me to mislead people about the consequences of our factory in their neighborhood?’” Donovan says. “When you put something in this light, many times the boss will sense your disapproval or, even better, recognize that what they proposed is wrong.”
Remember that you have one other option when you’re on the receiving end of out-of-bounds behaviors -quitting your internship.
An unwise overreaction? Not necessarily, says Levit.
“After all, no job, especially one that is supposed to jump-start your brand new career, is worth sacrificing your mental and physical well-being or your future potential,” she says.