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The Internship Checklist: 5 Things Your Spring Internship Must Provide

The Internship Checklist: 5 Things Your Spring Internship Must Provide

You probably have an idea of your perfect internship this spring. Maybe it’s working for a fashion powerhouse. Perhaps you want to work for the Googles and Apples of the world. You could even want to work for a non-profit with a cause. The world is your internship oyster; whatever your interests may be, there’s something out there for you.

Before you commit to an internship this spring, there are five things you need to check off your list. No matter if you want to work for a celeb or the president, here’s what you should look for in the ideal internship:

Opportunity for advancement

Before you take an internship this spring, consider this important question: Will the internship provide you with an opportunity for advancement? Studies show that 61 percent of paid interns receive at least one job offer — a number that you should strive to be a part of. Plus, the chance to land a full-time job is especially important as you embark upon one of your last programs while you’re still in school and eligible to intern. This could be your final shot at gaining employment through an internship. You don’t want to take on just any.

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In order to see if the employer will hire you after your program, you have to do a little digging. Check out what people are saying online, talk to past interns, and even ask your employer these questions directly:

  • What are typical rates of hire after an internship?
  • What do I have to do to continue working in the organization?
  • What traits to you look for when transitioning an intern to a full-time hire?

The answers to these questions will help you to navigate through your program a little better, as well as understand what you have to do to get hired in the end.

Competitive compensation

Pay is no joke. While internships have been plagued with negative stereotypes such as errand or coffee running, the fact is, internships are more than menial work. Your spring internship should provide you with an educational experience, as well as at least federal minimum wage. If you’re paid, you also receive the same rights as a full-time employee, such as protection against discrimination, sexual harassment, and arbitrary dismissal. (Unpaid interns are not seen as employees in the eyes of the law, and therefore do not have the same rights.)

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Paid interns are not only happier, they are also more engaged with their work and have a higher chance at getting hired, with the median salary starting at $51,930. Not too shabby for an entry-level job.

Access to professional development

In the end, internships are supposed to be a learning experience. While having a big name on your resume is obviously a huge benefit, if you’re not learning much from a powerful organization, what good is it in the long-run? Plus, it’s what many professionals want as well: 48 percent want professional development through learning new skills. An additional 30.2 percent of young professionals want the chance to do real work.

Here’s what you should gain in your internship experience this spring: The chance to develop as a professional from company leaders, clients, co-workers, and even customers. This can be done a myriad of ways, from attending conferences to having one-on-one training sessions with your boss. You can also acquire important skills that can transfer to multiple professions, such as social media skills, marketing knowledge, content management system aptitude, and business development expertise. Picking up valuable tech skills, including HTML and CSS, will also help you to be more knowledgeable and stay competitive.

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In addition, studies show that 47.3 percent of interns say they’re most interested in access to executives and mentorship during an internship. Access to leaders and managers helps you to learn more about the industry, builds lasting connections, and improves your workflow since you’re receiving constant communication from the people at the top.

Diversity

One of the best things an internship can provide is diverse options, both in the people that are employed by the organization and the tasks that you ultimately perform. If you’re lucky enough to secure a paid internship, that’s even better: Historically, paid internships are more attractive to diverse candidates, which means you’ll have the chance to work with awesome people from different walks of life.

Why is this a good thing? Because receiving knowledge from a variety of backgrounds, education levels, and overall experience will provide you with a more fulfilling program. Plus, it forces you to see how you can improve based on varying opinions from industry leaders.

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Perks

When I say perks, I don’t mean lounging out in front of a fireplace or getting all the free food and drinks you want (although these are great). I mean gaining some additional benefits that can make for a more satisfying internship experience.

For example, 43.6 percent of interns would enjoy a flexible schedule, and an additional 13.7 percent want company culture activities. Location, size of team, project type, and the chance to attend industry events are great perks that can positively contribute to your well-being, effectively enhancing your internship experience. Keep in mind that perks like relocation or housing are typically given to summer interns. If you are looking for this benefit in your spring internship, you may want to re-evaluate your search or wait to take an opportunity in the summer.

While you should have an open mind before starting your spring internship, these five factors should definitely come into play. Do your research and use this checklist as a guide to see if your next internship can provide you with what you need.

What do you think? What are some other factors that can improve your spring internship experience?

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Published on November 12, 2020

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

5 Signs You Work in a Toxic Environment (And What To Do)

What’s the most draining, miserable job you’ve ever had? Maybe you had a supervisor with unrealistic demands about your work output and schedule. Or perhaps, you worked under a bullying boss who frequently lost his temper with you and your colleagues, creating a toxic work environment.

Chances are, though, your terrible job experience was more all-encompassing than a negative experience with just one person. That’s because, in general, toxicity at work breeds an entire culture. Research shows abusive behavior by leaders can and often quickly spread through an entire organization.[1]

Unfortunately, working in a toxic environment doesn’t just make it miserable to show up to the office (or a Zoom meeting). This type of culture can have lasting negative effects, taking a toll on mental and physical health and even affecting workers’ personal lives and relationships.[2]

While it’s often all-encompassing, toxic culture isn’t always as blatant or clear-cut as abuse. Some of the evidence is more subtle—but it still warrants concern and action.

Have a feeling that your workplace is a toxic environment? Here are 5 surefire signs to look for.

1. People Often Say (or Imply) “That’s Not My Job”

When I first launched my company, I had a very small team. And back then, we all wore a lot of hats, simply because we had to. My colleagues and I worked tirelessly together to build, troubleshoot, and market our product, and nobody complained (at least most of the time).

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Because we were all in it together, with the same shared vision in mind, cooperation mattered so much more than job titles. Unfortunately, it’s not always that way.

In some workplaces, people adhere to their job descriptions to a fault:

  • Need help with an accounting problem? Sorry, that’s not my job.
  • Oh, you spilled your coffee in the break room? Too bad, I’m working.
  • Can’t figure out the new software? Ask IT.

While everyone has their own skillset—and time is often at a premium—cooperation is important in any workplace. An “it’s not my job” attitude is a sign of a toxic environment because it’s inherently selfish. It implies “I only care about me and what I have to get done” and that people aren’t concerned about the collective good or overall vision.[3] That type of perspective is not only bound to drain individual relationships; it also drains overall morale and productivity.

2. There’s a Lack of Diversity

Diversity is a vital part of a healthy work environment. We need the opinions and ideas of people who don’t see the world like us to move ahead. So, when leaders don’t prioritize diversity—or worse, they actively avoid it—I’m always suspicious about their character and values.

Limiting your workforce to one type of person is bound to prevent organizations from growing healthily. But even if your work environment is diverse in general, the management might prevent diverse individuals from rising to leadership positions, which only misses the point of having a diverse work environment in the first place.

Look around you. Who’s in leadership at your company? Who gets promotions and rewards most often? If the same type of people gets ahead while other individuals consistently get left behind, you might be working in a toxic environment.

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However it manifests in your workplace, keep in mind that a lack of diversity is a tell-tale sign that “bias is rampant and the wrong things are valued.”[4]

3. Feedback Isn’t Allowed

Just as individual growth hinges on being open to criticism, an organization’s well-being depends on workers’ ability to air their concerns and ideas. If management actively stifles feedback from employees, you’re probably working in a toxic environment.

But that definitely doesn’t mean nobody will air their feelings. One of the telltale signs of toxic leadership is when employees vent on the sidelines, out of management’s earshot. When I worked in a toxic environment, coworkers would often complain about higher-ups and company policies during work in private chats or after work hours.

It’s normal to get frustrated at work. That’s just a part of having a job. What isn’t normal is when dissent isn’t a part of or discouraged in the workplace. A workplace culture that suppresses constructive feedback will not be successful in the long run. It’s a sign that leadership isn’t open to new ideas, and that they’re more concerned about their own well-being than the health of the organization as a whole.

4. Quantifiable Measures Take Priority

Sales numbers, timelines, bottom lines—these metrics are, of course, important signs of how things are going in any business. But great leaders know that true success isn’t always measurable or quantifiable. More meaningful factors like workplace satisfaction, teamwork, and personal growth all contribute to and sustain these metrics.

Numbers don’t always tell the whole story, and they shouldn’t be the only concern. Measure-taking should always take a backseat to meaning-making—working together to contribute to a vision that improves people’s lives. If your workplace zones in on quantifiable measures of success, it’s probably not prioritizing what truly matters. And it’s probably also instilling a fear of failure among employees, which paralyzes employees instead of motivating them.

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5. The Policies and Rules Are Inconsistent

Every organization has its own set of unique policies and procedures. But often, unhealthy workplaces have inconsistent, unspoken “rules” that apply differently to different people. When one person gets in trouble for the same type of behavior that promotes another person, workers will feel like management plays favorites—which isn’t just unethical but also a quick way to drain morale and fuel tension in the office.[5] It only shows how incompetent the leadership is and indicates a toxic workplace.

For example, maybe there’s no “set” rule about work hours, but your manager expects certain people or departments to show up at 8 am while other individuals tend to roll in at 9 or 10 am with no real consequences. If that’s the case, then it’s likely that your organization’s leadership is more concerned with controlling people and exerting power rather than the overall good of their employees.

How to Deal With a Toxic Work Environment

The first thing to know if you’re stuck in a toxic work environment is that you’re not stuck. While it’s ultimately the company’s responsibility to make positive changes that prevent harmful actions to employees, you also have an opportunity to speak up about your concerns—or, if necessary, depart the role altogether.

If you suspect that you’re working in a toxic environment, think about how you can advocate for yourself. Start by raising your grievances about the culture in an appropriate setting, like a scheduled, one-on-one meeting with your supervisor.

Can’t imagine sitting down with your supervisor to air those problems on your own? Form some solidarity with like-minded colleagues. Approaching management might feel less overwhelming when you have a “team” who shares your views.

It doesn’t have to be an overtly confrontational discussion. Do your best to frame your concerns in a positive way by sharing with your supervisor that you want to be more productive at work, but certain problems sometimes get in the way.

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Final Thoughts

If your supervisor truly cares about the well-being of the organization, they will take your concerns seriously and actively take part in changing the toxic work environment into something more conducive to productivity.

If not, then it might be time to consider the cost of the job on your well-being and personal life. Is it worth staying just for your resume’s sake? Or could you consider a “bridge” job that allows you to exhale for a bit, even if it doesn’t “move you ahead” the way you planned?

It might not be the ideal situation, but your mental health and well-being are too important to ignore. And when you have the opportunity to refuel, you’ll be a far more valuable asset at whatever amazing job you land next.

More Tips on Dealing With a Toxic Work Environment

Featured photo credit: Campaign Creators via unsplash.com

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