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Notice the Red Flags So You Don’t Have to Wave the White One

internship goals
Ashley Fritts
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Published on January 26, 2015

Searching for an internship can be a tedious task. There are so many opportunities out there, and the broad spectrum of possibility can be overwhelming. When searching for an internship, keep in mind what you would like to accomplish. Also, you must consider the source – who can help you accomplish these goals?

As my final semester began to wind down, I was ecstatic when I got my first return phone call about an internship to which I had applied. The internship was for a website that helped businesses increase their online access to their customers. While I was looking for any kind of internship I could get my hands on, I didn’t evaluate the position as thoroughly as I should have.

I knew that the internship did not offer any financial compensation, and decided to accept the offer anyway. When I met with the owner of the website, the interview seemed to flow smoothly. He asked me what I was looking for, and then told me who they were looking for. The interview went well, and he offered me the position. I accepted and he said we would be in touch via email.

That evening, I received an email address and a username to be used for all future correspondence. I was also given my first assignment. While I was excited to have my first assignment, I was shocked that he wanted it that day. I was informed that the assignment shouldn’t take longer than 15 minutes to research and about an hour to write. The time frame suggested was not realistic. I knew nothing of the material for the assignment, and needed 500 words on it before the end of the day. I pushed my homework aside, then spent four hours researching and writing a paper for this website.

I felt proud and accomplished after completing such a difficult, unforeseen task! My feeling of elation dissipated after opening my email. I already had another assignment! It occurred to me that I hadn’t asked how much work was expected of the interns. I was told the internship would take about an hour and a half per week. I thought that meant I would have one assignment per week.

I wrote five daily blog posts for this guy before I put my foot down. I was getting behind on my homework, and I wasn’t getting anything back from this internship. These assignments took me anywhere from one to four hours each. The owner of this website didn’t even put my name on my work. Reluctantly, I sent him an email expressing my concern for the required workload. I told him I didn’t think I could keep up with what he was asking. He never said a word back to me. I was heartbroken. I felt like I’d been used for my writing, and the internship I’d looked forward to was over.

If there’s anything others can take away from this internship experience, it’s this: be honest with yourself about what you’d like to accomplish with an internship. Be realistic about what you have to offer someone else while you’re still completing coursework. If the person you are considering an internship with offers you an approximate time frame that you should set aside, ask them how they came up with that figure.

The point of an internship is to learn and grow in your field of study. Be realistic about the scope of work, the time you have to offer, and whether you truly feel the internship you choose will build your portfolio in a positive way. While there are countless internship opportunities for whatever your field of study, be picky! Don’t settle for the first company to give you a call. Be true to yourself and what you have to offer, and your hard work will pay off as you begin building a successful career.

Ashley Fritts

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