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Interns, Listen Up! Top 5 Things You Shouldn’t Be Doing

Interns, Listen Up! Top 5 Things You Shouldn’t Be Doing

Ah, internships! The gateway to employment. The key to getting noticed in a bleak economy. The rite of passage that gives you access to influencers, awesome connections, and memorable opportunities.

But why are so many interns doing things they shouldn’t? According to a study by Harris Interactive, there’s a huge gap between students’ perceptions of their abilities and managers’ perceptions of those same skills. Only about half of college grads who have taken the time to complete internships say they feel prepared for the workplace, and the number of bosses who think they’re prepared is lower than 40 percent.

A common problem with internships is that many are laced with busy work—like running errands or performing administrative tasks—and these tasks don’t help you build relevant skills. Although some administrative duties can be expected in an internship, you deserve an immersive and educational experience overall. To truly get the most out of your commitment and ensure you’re not dampening your internship experience, it’s worth doing your research on the employer and the tasks provided.

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What are some things you shouldn’t be doing as an intern?

1. Going without a paycheck.

Chances are, you or someone you know has had an unpaid internship. While it has become common practice, unpaid internships are not only bad for your wallet—especially if you’re still in school or have heavy student loans—they also don’t provide you with the proper legal protection. Unpaid interns are not seen as employees in the eyes of the law, and therefore do not have the same workplace rights as actual employees. This can open the door to discrimination, unfair wages, and no possibility of legal recourse in either event.

How to get around it: As a rule of thumb, you should be getting offered at least the federal minimum wage for your internship. This ensures you’re given legal protection against workplace discrimination, as well as ample credit for your work. Apply only to internships that promise pay, a stipend, or perks (like free meals, telecommuting options, or an onsite gym) that make the experience doable. Your wallet will thank you.

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2. Being discriminated against.

Being harassed based on gender, age, sexual orientation, race or any other part of your identity will not contribute positively to your internship experience—and could have serious psychological effects. You should never be given or excluded from assignments based purely on your identity, and you should never be targeted with rude or discriminatory comments from superiors. While laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act exist, guidelines for internships are foggy. Because unpaid interns aren’t legally recognized as employees, you may have no way to fight this behavior. In any employment situation, it’s important to ensure you’re working with an institution that shares your values and favors equality.

How to get around it: Always research an organization before applying. Talk to previous interns or employees, and check out the company’s mission statement and goals. If you are given assignments that you’re uncomfortable performing, talk to your manager about alternative ways to complete the task. If they don’t listen or aren’t concerned with your objections, it may be time to find alternative opportunities.

3. Working solo.

The point of an internship is to gain ample understanding and knowledge from experienced professionals. In fact, 47.3 percent of interns say they’re most interested in access to executives and mentorship during an internship. If you’re stuck in a back cubicle and aren’t getting mentored or being provided feedback on your work, you’re not getting the educational experience you deserve. Further, your employer is clearly showing they don’t value your growth as a professional. What’s the benefit in that?

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How to get around it: If you’ve been promised mentorship opportunities, suggest a schedule that you and your supervisor can abide to. If you haven’t been promised these opportunities, communicate the value you find in mentorship. Ask how you can improve as an intern and suggest scheduling a regular meeting with your manager to receive feedback.

4. Doing menial tasks.

Interns have long been stereotyped as the menial task runners of the workforce, from coffee fetchers to bathroom cleaners. But if these duties weren’t part of the job description, you shouldn’t be expected to do them. Besides not bringing any value to your experience, menial tasks do nothing to build up your portfolio or impact your employer in a meaningful way.

How to get around it: During your first week, outline your goals for the internship. Investigate the tasks you’ll be performing during your tenure. If you’re constantly being given menial tasks, sit down with your manager and circle back to this conversation, communicating that you’re concerned your internship has gone off the tracks.

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5. Avoiding goal-setting.

Like most interns, you probably had an image of the perfect internship experience. Whether it was connecting with top executives or making a difference in the organization, reaching your goals should be a vital part of your internship experience. If you’re not reaching levels you pined for, you need to do some evaluating. Why aren’t you obtaining your goals? Why are you performing tasks that are far from the job description? And why isn’t anyone doing anything about it?

How to get around it: First, it’s important to select an internship employer that puts a heavy emphasis on professional development and getting the most out of your time as an intern. While this may not be always possible, you can always communicate what you would like to gain by setting up a one-on-one meeting with your manager, where you can outline steps both parties can take to get where you want to be.

While you may be faced with an unlikely internship situation, remember you can always change your course if you communicate your needs and follow through on your experience. Doing so will ensure a more fulfilling internship experience.

What do you think? What are some other things you shouldn’t be doing as an intern?

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

How to Be Happy at Work and Find Fulfillment in Your Career

If you’re going to spend 1/3 of our life at work, you should enjoy it, right?

Trust me, I know that’s easier said than done. Difficult coworkers, less-than-desirable tasks, or even just being in the wrong position can all lead to a lack of enjoyment and fulfillment in your work.

But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? Or better yet, if you struggle with all of the above (and then some), what if I told you that enjoying your work and finding fulfillment regardless of those obstacles is possible?

Don’t believe me? I don’t blame you because I was there too. Before implementing the tips below, I struggled to get through each day, much less find real fulfillment, in the office. Now, even after the toughest days on the job, I still come away with feelings of pride, accomplishment, and fulfillment. The best news is, so can you.

If you’re ready to make those hours count and find happiness and fulfillment in the office, then read on to find out how to be happy at work and find fulfillment in your career:

1. Discover the root(s) of the problem

For this first step, we’ll need to think back to 8th-grade physics (humor me). We all know Newton’s 3rd law, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When you think about it, the same can be said outside of physics, and we see this law play out in our daily lives, day after day.

Simply put, all the issues we deal with in the office (and life in general) affect us in a noticeable way.

If you’re appreciated at work, like the work you do and receive frequent praise, promotions, or raises, then this will probably have an altogether positive effect on your life in the office.

But what if we reverse this? What if you feel under appreciated, get passed up for promotions, or get denied raises? This is sure to affect the way you feel at work on a negative level.

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So, before you can implement the steps of feeling happy and fulfilled at work, we first have to discover the reasons why you don’t feel that way already.

Think about it, write a list, or make a mental note. Run through all the reasons you’re dissatisfied in the office, and don’t hold back. Knowing the exact obstacles you’re facing will make overcoming them that much easier.

In fact, as a side-challenge to this article, I recommend picking the top three reasons contributing to your dissatisfaction at work and using the following tips to tackle them.

2. Practice gratitude for an instant uplift

Did you know the simple act of feeling grateful can increase your happiness and make you more fulfilled at work?[1]

Well, it’s true, and it’s scientifically proven.

Dr. Lisa Firestone notes that practicing gratitude “reminds us of what we lacked in the past.” Meaning, it serves as both a boost to happiness and a bit of a wake-up call that things have been or could be, much worse.

Trying to conjure up feelings of gratitude can seem almost impossible when your work situation seems bleak, but hear me out: There are incredibly easy ways to get started and it doesn’t involve trying to “force” yourself to feel grateful about things that stress you out.

For an instant pick-me-up, try this:

Find a loose piece of paper, a blank sticky note, or anything you can write on, be it physical or digital. List just three things that you are absolutely without-a-doubt thankful for in your life.

Now here’s the trick: Don’t just list what you’re grateful for, you have to list why you’re grateful for them, too.

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For example, simply saying “I’m grateful for my kids” will probably make you feel good, sure, but what if we could amplify the warm, fuzzy feeling into real, lasting motivation?

Instead, write the reason you’re so thankful for your children. Is it because they make you laugh and forget about other stressors? Or maybe they help to remind you of why you go to work every day in the first place?

Whatever your reasons may be, jot them down and keep your list somewhere you can see it while you work. A quick glance at your gratitude list throughout the day can provide powerful, positive motivation to keep going.

Bonus:

If you can find just three things to be thankful for that specifically relate to your job, and list why those things make you grateful, your list can also help you find fulfillment in your work itself which can give you an even bigger boost of positivity throughout the day.

3. Take meaningful time for yourself

We all know creating a strong work-life balance can be crucial to feeling satisfied in our jobs, but rarely do we ever address how we’re spending our time outside of work.

Many of us survive a 9-hour work day and commute home only to find ourselves busy with our personal to-do lists, running a household, and taking care of a child (or 2 or 3, and so on).

If you spend all your time working, whether in the office or within your household, you’re going to feel drained at some point. This is why setting meaningful time for yourself every day is highly important.

Look, I get it: I don’t know anyone in the working world who can shun all responsibility for a 3-movie marathon or happy hour with friends whenever they feel like it. But finding time for yourself, be it just 30 minutes to an hour, can really make a difference in how you feel at work.

This works because you’ll have time to actually relax and let the day’s stress melt away while you enjoy something just for you. The to-do lists and stressors will still be there after you’re refreshed and ready to tackle them.

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No time for me-time? Try this:

If you have a busy household, you’ll need to capitalize on a block of time you know will be completely uninterrupted. The easiest way to do this: try waking up 30 minutes to an hour earlier than usual (or push bedtime back an hour if you’re a night owl, like me) and take time to do something you enjoy.

This could be reading with a cup of tea, catching up on Facebook, spending time on a passion project—anything! As long as it’s meaningful to you, it works!

Bonus:

Starting your day with meaningful time for yourself can set you up to have a positive mood that lasts well into office hours, and having your me-time in the evening can give you something positive to look forward to during the day.

4. Get productive and feel accomplished

Don’t you just love the feeling of checking the last item off of a hefty to-do list? That’s because self-motivation can be a huge driver of positivity and success.

When we accomplish something, no matter how small, it makes us feel good, plain and simple. Applying this tactic to your daily work can be the motivator you need to find fulfillment during the daily office grind.

While there are tons of steps to get more done at work, I’ll share my personal favorite: Prioritizing.

Now, many people handle prioritizing differently. Some like to tackle the little tasks first so they can spend focused time on the big to-dos. Others like to knock out the big items first and get to the smaller ones when they can.

No matter which camp you’re in, you may be missing one crucial step: Time management.

So how’s this work? When you factor in the amount of time your priorities will take, it can transform your productivity ten-fold.

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Say you have three top priorities for the day. You might jump into the smaller ones or the bigger ones depending on your preferred method, and then find yourself out of time and bringing work home with you at the end of the day.

This is prevented when you factor in time. Knowing how long each item will take, or deliberately setting specific blocks of time for your priorities can help you accomplish more in the same 8-9 (or 12) hours that you typically spend at work.

Try this:

Take a look at your priorities and consider how long they should take. Pop into your Google calendar (or Filofax, whatever works for you) and schedule time to work on your priority items around any important meetings or events of the day.

The most important thing to remember is to stick to your dedicated time.

Often, when we know exactly how long we have to work on something (and honor this time limit), we’re motivated to get more done on time to avoid taking work home at the end of the day.

The bottom line

There’s no need to waste 1/3 of our lives feeling unsatisfied at work. Luckily, you now have the tools to get started, take back your time, and become happy and fulfilled at work again.

The only question is — which tip will you try first?

Featured photo credit: Ellyot via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Psychology Today: The Healing Power of Gratitude

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