Tool #4: Negotiating your internship

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An internship should, above all, be a learning experience. So don’t be afraid of negotiating the kind of work you will do and the responsibilities you will have. Clearly, your way of negotiating will vary depending on what kind of studio/company you are planning to enter. But even when wanting to intern with a small studio or a non-profit organisation, having a conversation about the terms and conditions of the internship is helpful in establishing what the expectations and needs on both sides are.

a) Make sure you have a mentor assigned to you with whom you meet on a regular basis to discuss the progress of the internship.

b) Apart from money, are there other things that should/could be offered in return for your work (use of equipment, materials and facilities)?

c) Do you find that most of your time is spent doing mundane tasks? Negotiate so that you’re doing something you really want with more of your time.

d) If all you do is stuffing envelopes and doing the recycling, be clear that they may employ you as a cleaner but not as a member of staff in the future!

f) Ask former interns as well as your mentor and other members of staff about the possibility of getting a paid job in the organisation once the internship ends, since even if you’re already performing highly-skilled design work for them, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they will take you on.

g) Respect the dates you set out for your internship: don’t think that hanging around longer than planned will make it any better or result in a greater opportunity for paid work.

h) Make sure you establish two-way feedback, and set it up before you leave. Feedback sessions are not only about evaluating your work, but they are also an opportunity to let your mentor and colleagues know whether your internship was a useful experience. Remember other interns may find themselves in the same situation after you’ve gone, so if there’s something that did not work out, speak up!

e) Make sure you think about the end before it ends!

“Negotiating your internship” has been adapted from a text by the Carrotworkers’ Collective.
Last edit: 19.06.2014