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I recently got an intenship at a company as a creative writer. My duties included blogging, content management and search engine optimization. On my first day I was taken on a two hour course about career building which was good. In the afternoon, I went back to the office and sat at a desk- I hadn’t even been introduced to the staff and the manager ignored me. I was half heartedly given the task of writing a blog- without a topic, word length or house style. I wasn’t even writing for the company website and wasn’t told how the other website I was supposed to be writing for was connected. By late morning on the second day I decided to leave. I hated the office, the lack of direction and I still hadn’t been introduced to the manager. Although most internships are volunteer, that does not mean you should be treated badly. Here are a few tips to ensure you avoid an internship from hell.

     Research the company 

 This may seem like a simple one, but so many people fail to research the company they will be working for. This means going beyond the company website and seeing what people are saying about this company. If they are a small company then there won’t have much information Online. In this case email their admin department and ask what the company does. This shows initiative and will also save you the embarrassment of having to ask on your first day. If the admin assistant is unable to tell you what the company does, in a clear and concise way be worried. Even though you are encouraged to to internships at smaller companies, consider their creditability when applying.

  Be clear about your duties

This is a very important one and can save you a lot of hassle and worry. I wasn’t clear about what I was suppose to be doing and this made me lack motivation. Don’t fail into the same trap. Even if your nervous make sure that your are briefed on your duties and that you understand them. How many of us have been given instructions that we don’t understand but are embarrassed to ask? This internship is about you and developing that much needed work experience, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. If like me, you find that the internship is not living up to your expectations, don’t be afraid to leave. There is no point doing something that does not benefit you. In this world you must learn to value yourself, even when other people don’t.

  Paid or unpaid Internship? 

 There has been much debated on whether interns should be paid- in my opinion they should. You are offering your physical and intellectual services and this is a commodity. Many companies have a constant stream of interns, so they don’t have to pay a full time employee a proper wage. If you are deciding to take an unpaid internship, make sure that the opportunity is really valuable and that you can afford to work for free. No one can live on fresh air. If you take a paid intenship all of the above still applies but you also have to give a little bit more. If a company can afford to pay you, its likely that they can afford to keep you. Show that you are a valuable member of the team and that you are willing to learn. If that means being the assigned lunch fetcher then do it- you have to start at the bottom.

Although I had a bad experience, I still feel that internships can be valuable depending on the company. Remember that your time is precious, just because your unemployed doesn’t mean you owe society anything. There are plenty of people who don’t want to work and your not one of them. Be kind to yourself in this difficult period “How to stay motivated while unemployed” and don’t give up.

  Further reading

The legal stuff- https://www.gov.uk/employment-rights-for-interns

Get paid it’s your right- http://www.internaware.org/act/resources/

How to get an Internship- 5 ways to get an internship

Just for fun- Intern blunders: when work experience goes wrong