If you are a college student this applies to you. Most internships want you to receive credit for your participation. This acts as a legal precedent of sorts so they can justify hiring you as free labor. Companies are trying to protect themselves from the law. (Read the Biting The Hand That Doesn't Feed Me in the related article section for more specifics) The agreement is that in exchange for your free labor you receive real world schooling. In essence your internship becomes a classroom. Your college provides an internship supervisor, a professor, who will assign you work and be a mediator if a problem may arise. Generally a journal of internship experiences is the assignment. It is to detail daily activities and lessons learned. Some internships will insist on being taken for credit as classes and you will get graded for them. This can be an easy grade. However, if the internship is not taken while college is in session the credits will still cost you in the summer because of the professor advising you and so forth. This is important to think about with regards to cost.
I never took an internship for credit and I have no regrets. My internships all took place in New York City, far from my college. I found it silly to pay for a class that I might not get anything out of. You get out what you put in, more on that later. Lately I’ve found that more and more internships can be done without college credit in light of the poor economy and rampant layoffs.
Per Diem or Stipend
Remember when your parents used to give you an allowance? Well, that’s kind of what a per diem is except in this case most folks are stingy. A per diem is like a daily allowance that usually is set aside for transportation costs or lunch expenses. Thing is some companies don’t provide this allowance, which means that it could end up costing you to go to and from, providing free labor. Larger companies can petty cash your per diem, but this doesn’t mean they all will. If this is a concern because of monetary reasons make sure to discuss this during your interview. Transportation could get expensive if you have a lengthy commute that necessitates trains and subways etc.
The rule of thumb during your internship tenure is being on your best behavior. There will come a time down the line where your patience will be tested. Along with behaving, treat everyone else the way you wish to be treated. This may sound like a boring Sunday school lesson, but the fact of the matter is that there are office hierarchies and you never know who someone is friends with. Therefore even if you have problems with certain individuals, which you might, don’t let your disdain for them boil over. Don’t get caught out. This applies to everyone from the receptionist on up. You never know when you might need allies or a recommendation from a co-worker. Plus I’ve found the people closest to the ground have a better understanding of the inner workings of companies. They see and hear everything. They fill out the paper work. Later on I will discuss how it is possible to turn a negative emotion such as spite into a positive force of motivation.
Presentation is everything
The way you present yourself amongst your co-workers is very important. Be nice. Be courteous. Don’t be a slob. While appearances can be deceiving it is necessary to make an effort with regards to presentation. Look around your office environment and feel out the place. Is it a casual environment? Do people dress accordingly? The manner in which employees dress whether business casual or in suits and ties for men and long dresses for women, should give you an idea about your own attire. Most entertainment fields tend towards the casual look. You can probably get away with jeans and a long sleeve button up shirt. Tucked in or not, you make the call. I like leaving the shirt untucked, but that’s my battle against the man. Just don’t wear the shirt with the stain in it, save that for the weekend. I have interned in dressier places, but I made it work. In winter I’d wear sweaters so I didn’t have to tuck my shirt in. You can apply some tricks like this.
Our actions and behavior can carry more weight than the way we look. All of us aren’t blessed with physical beauty, but we can still be beautiful within. Therefore careful interactions with co-workers are vital. Once again check out your surroundings and see the way other people interact with one another. Some offices are quiet and people keep to themselves. Some offices are livelier and employees congregate. Depending on the environment that you are in your actions will be viewed accordingly. In order to be comfortable, be yourself but use common sense. It’s like cursing; hopefully you abstain when you are eating dinner at Grandma’s. One other thing to remember, in terms of the office hierarchy you are the equivalent of a serf, the lowest of the low.