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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 December 10, 2019

7 Strategies to Keep Employee Motivation High

7 Strategies to Keep Employee Motivation High

Highly motivated employees are essential to the success of any business. Most people spend a third of their lives at work.[1] That’s a significant amount of time away from home, apart from the people who make us happy and the things we love to do. So keeping employee motivation high is essential for creating an office environment that gets the best out of our people.

But do you know what motivates your people?

It’s simple:

  • Is their work stimulating?
  • Does it challenge them?
  • Is there room to grow, a promotion perhaps?
  • Do you encourage creativity?
  • Can they speak openly and honestly with you?
  • Do you praise them?
  • Do you trust your staff to take ownership of their work?
  • Do they feel safe in their work environment?
  • And more importantly, do you pay them properly?

Every one of these factors contributes to the general happiness of your employees. It’s what motivates them to come into the office each day and work hard, hit goals, and get results.

In contrast, an unmotivated employee is typically unhappy. They take more sick days, they’re not invested in seeing your business succeed, and they’re always on the lookout for something better.

Stats show that 81 percent of employees would consider leaving their jobs today if the right opportunity presented itself.[2] So it’s up to you to set aside time and energy to create a work environment that benefits every one of your employees.

These seven strategies will help you motivate your people to consistently deliver quality work and, more importantly, to stick around for the long term.

1. Be Someone They Can Rely On

You rely on your people to turn up to work each day, to come to you when they have a problem they can’t solve, to be honest, and to always engage professionally with customers.

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But this is not a one-way street. You, too, need to be someone your team can rely on. They trust you to have their backs when a client is unreasonable, to know that the decisions they make are in your best interest, and to make good on your promises.

If you say you’ll attend an important meeting, be there. If your company makes a profit and you’ve said you’ll pay a bonus, pay it. The goodwill of your people is something you never want to test, let alone lose.

Be reliable; it’s astounding how much this motivates your people.

2. Create an Awesome Company Culture

There’s no denying that company culture trickles down from the top. Your leadership and attitude massively influences the attitudes, work ethic, and happiness of your staff. If you’re always stressed-out, overly demanding, and unreasonable, it’ll create tension in your office which will adversely affect your employees’ motivation levels.

In fact, the HAYS “US What People Want Survey” found that 47 percent of staff who are actively looking for a new job, pinpoint company culture as the driving force behind their reason to leave.

So if you have high staff turnover, you need to determine whether your company culture might be the motivating factor behind your churn rate.

Here are four ways to build a culture that keeps your employees highly motivated.

  • Be conscious of the image you present. Your body language and attitude can positively or negatively impact your employees. So come to work energized. Be optimistic, friendly, and engaging—this enthusiasm will spill over to your people and motivate them to be more productive and efficient.
  • Appreciate your people and be reasonable. Celebrate your team’s achievements. If they’re doing a good job, tell them. Encourage them to challenge themselves and try new things. And reward when deserved. If they’re struggling, help them. Work together to find solutions and be a sounding board for their ideas.
  • Be flexible. Give your people opportunities to work remotely—this is highly motivating to staff, particularly millennials. They don’t want to be battling traffic each day on their way to work. They don’t want to miss their kids’ baseball games or ballet rehearsals. Stats show that companies that offer flextime and the ability to work from home or a coffee shop have happier and more productive employees.
  • Create employee-friendly work environments. These are spaces that inspire and ignite the imagination. Have you ever been to Google’s offices? No headquarter is the same. From indoor slides and food trucks, to hammocks, and funky work pods on the wall, gaming rooms, and tranquil interior gardens, there’s something for everyone. It’s a space where people want to be, catering to their need for creativity, quiet, or team building; you name it.

So take a look at your company culture and ask yourself, Is my business an attractive workplace for talented professionals? Does it inspire commitment and motivate my people? What could I do to improve my company culture?

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3. Touch Base with Your Team Weekly

Make time for your people, whether you run a remote business or work in an office, set aside time each week to talk to your people one-on-one. It’s non-negotiable.

When there’s an open line of communication between staff members, work gets done. Don’t believe me? A study by Gallup found that 26 percent of employees said feedback from their leaders helps them to do a better job.[3]

Your people want to feel trusted. They want to take ownership of their work, but they also need to know that when they have a question, they can reach out and get answers. If you’re unwilling to make yourself available, your team will quickly become unmotivated, work will stagnate, and your business will stop growing.

So block off time on your calendar each week to touch base with your people, even if only to let them know that what they’re working on matters.

4. Give Them the Tools They Need to Do Their Jobs Well

Imagine trying to run your business without electricity. How would you contact your clients? What would happen when your phone or computer battery died?

Technology is super critical to the success of your businesses. It allows you to work more efficiently, to be more productive, and to handle matters on-the-go. That’s why you need to give your people tools that will make their jobs easier.

Make sure their equipment is in good working condition. There’s nothing more frustrating than a laptop that takes ages to boot up. It’s got to go. Replace outdated software with new software. Don’t make your designer work in Coreldraw; give them access to the most up-to-date version of Adobe Creative Suite. Take it a step further and buy them a subscription to Shutterstock or Getty Images.

Make working for you a pleasure, not a pain; and watch your employees’ motivation levels rise.

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5. Provide Opportunities to Learn and Upskill

Would you believe me if I told you that 33 percent of people cite boredom and a need for new challenges as the top reason for leaving their job?[4] If you want to retain your talent, you need to upskill.

Thanks to technology, we live in a rapidly evolving world that demands we change with it. A copywriter is no longer just a writer; they now need to be experts in SEO, Google Adwords, CRMs, and so much more.

A pastry chef needs to be a food stylist, photographer, and social media manager. An entrepreneur needs to be a marketer—or at least take ownership of the marketing message for their business—if they hope to scale.

Technology makes all of this possible. No matter your location, your people can continuously expand their knowledge and gain new skill sets—something that’s highly motivating to employees. They want to know that there are opportunities to grow and develop themselves.

If you won’t invest in your people, then your business becomes just another job to tide them over until they find where they truly belong. So be the company that sees value in developing its people.

6. Monitor Their Workload

Overworked employees tend to be unproductive and unhappy. Your people cannot be at full capacity every day, month to month. Something’s got to give. They’ll become deflated and their work will eventually suffer, which will negatively impact your business.

What I like to do is implement a traffic light system. It helps me to keep a finger on the pulse of my business. So there’s red, yellow, and green:

  • Red means they’re fully loaded.
  • Yellow means they’re busy, but they can potentially take on more.
  • Green means they haven’t got enough to do.

I use this traffic light system because I don’t want my team members to be stressed out of their brains all the time. If they are, they won’t make good decisions and they won’t do good work.

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If my people are regularly overloaded, I have things to think about. Perhaps I need to hire a new person to help ease the load or take a closer look at what projects are good to go, and which can take a back seat.

And this is why #3 is essential. If I’m regularly engaging with my people, I’ll know that while they’re coping with their workload, it is impacting their performance and health, and I’ll take action.

7. Don’t Mess Around with Your Employees’ Pay

Never mess around with your people’s salary. As a business owner or high-level manager, it’s easy to forget that most people live from paycheck to paycheck. Delayed compensation can mean a missed bill payment, which could result in costly penalties they can’t afford or hits to their credit score.

So it’s your job to ensure that you pay your people on time.

The Bottom Line

A motivated team is an asset to any business. These people never give up. They get excited about coming to work each day and can’t wait to test a new theory or tackle a particularly tricky challenge. They’re proud of the work they do. And more importantly, they have no reason to leave.

Wouldn’t you rather be part of their success story than the business that drove them away?

More to Motivate Your Team

Featured photo credit: Emma Dau via unsplash.com

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