How to Avoid Exploitation When Interning During College

How to Avoid Exploitation When Interning During College
  • Opening Intro -

    As you approach the end of your college studies in pursuit of a degree, you may be expected to complete an internship.

    Many fields require hands-on experience on the job to test your knowledge and enhance your skills.


You’ll be able to take what you learned and apply it in an authentic setting. An internship can help you to be on your toes as you learn to make split-second decisions.

You’ll also have the opportunity to learn from others who have gone before you. As you prepare to begin your internship, learn how you can avoid exploitation.

Expect to Get Paid

When you apply for your internship, you can plan on having an interview with the employer to learn more about the opportunity. The employer will want to make sure you are a good fit for the program. You’ll discuss the ground rules, including what you will be paid.

Gone are the days when interns worked for free. Your internship should give you more than valuable experience.

The U.S. Department of Labor and Fair Labor Standards Act is on your side when it comes to pay. The employer should be offering you at least the minimum wage set at the federal level.

Those who appreciate and value you will offer more. You should also be paid if you work overtime. Employers should look at you as a gem. You cost much less than staff members who receive an annual salary.

You Should Know What You’re Getting Into from the Start

If you are fortunate, your internship will complement your studies. It should provide you with the opportunity to see what you have learned put into action.

Your role should be connected with what you learned. You shouldn’t only be a messenger or the person who runs to get lunch for everyone.

On the flip side, you shouldn’t be saddled with mountains of work that keep you at the job site long after everyone goes home. Ask the boss or supervisor what your responsibilities will be.

Take note of what you are told. If the people in charge or staff start taking advantage of you, you need to speak up. If you don’t get anywhere with people at the workplace, talk to your college advisor to ask for support on your behalf.

No One Should Have to Endure a Toxic Work Environment

The workplace is supposed to be a safe environment where you are treated with fairness. If you are being discriminated against, experience sexual harassment, or feel like the downtrodden simply because you are an intern, you are being exploited. No one should make you feel inferior.

You should not be spoken to harshly or without respect. There should be no comments made about your appearance. If you notice morale is low in the workplace, bad leadership could be to blame.

You don’t have to stay put in a place that is steeped in negativity. Talk to your college advisor and respectfully resign from your internship. Look for an opportunity that will be more meaningful to you.

You Should Get Regular Breaks

Employers are legally bound to give their employees regular breaks. As an intern, you should expect the same treatment.

If you put in eight hours at the job site, expect at least a 30-minute lunch break. That lunch break may be extended if you work more than eight hours.

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You should also have ten minutes to yourself after working for a four-hour period. You should be able to go to the bathroom at any time there is a need. If you have a medical condition, you may have more leeway with your break times or your hours.

If you are not given breaks, or you are being exploited in any way, you may be eligible for an L&I settlement. Consider teaming up with an attorney to fight for your rights if no one else comes to your aid.

Being an internship should provide you with valuable insights into the career you have chosen. No one has a right to exploit you.

Know your rights when you discuss your application with an employer. If you don’t get a positive vibe at that first meeting, respectfully decline. Continue your search until you find the right placement for you.

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Categories: Personal Advice