The BlogTern: Should You Pay Your Intern?

Posted on June 22, 2015

Natalia Rosario is an intern in the Community Development office in the City of Spartanburg, South Carolina (s/o to the sparkling, hub city) and with Main Street Woodruff in Woodruff, SC (Go Wolverines)!

ELGL has asked Natalia to help us better understand how to create a meaningful internship. Get up-to-speed on Natalia’s feedback by reading your first post – Summer School with Blogtern Natalia Rosario and Creating a Meaningful Internship.

Integrating Your Intern in the Organization

Every intern wants to feel a part of the organization. We don’t want to feel like no one is watching or really cares whether we show up. We want to work on and help with major projects. We want to work with all parts of the organization.

tumblr_mysaedhZ811rtkzdzo9_500One of the easiest ways to making an intern feeling a part of the organization is by taking them to lunch or coffee. Go to lunch once a week as a department (seriously, bonding time is important for your intern’s emotional health).

Other tips:

  • Introduce us to your coworkers! Introduce us to everyone!
  • Keep things light, we can talk about things besides work.
  • Keep disparaging comments about other people to a minimum; you don’t want to create a negative atmosphere that is difficult for a person with no prior knowledge of your institutional dynamics to navigate.
  • Give us shirts!
  • Share knowledge and inside jokes,
  • Immerse your intern in the local culture and encourage them to think of themselves as part of your ‘pod’ as Carmen (Mays) puts it!

Interns: Be nice to everyone! Don’t bring any negative expectations into the experience with you, and befriend as many people as possible. Not to use the relationship to your advantage, but just to make friends. Life and work are hard enough as it is; you can make things easier, happier, and more fun for everyone (including yourself) by being kind to others and bringing a winning attitude with you to work.

Is Pay Important?

Local governments struggle with whether to pay interns. From my perspective, the old saying “you pay for what you get” holds true.
tumblr_m8ebf4Cs1s1rtgxy9My recommendation? Pay at least minimum wage (and more than that if your budget can take it!). Pay does matter. Internships that pay will receive more applicants. If you can’t afford minimum wage, then try to pay something. You’ll get better candidates and they’ll work harder for you. Paying the intern will lead to more buy-in from the intern and make them feel part of the organization. Nothing makes you feel like a part of the gang than a check signed by the City Manager every two weeks!
An unpaid internship is better than not offering a work experience. You might get lucky and land the ideal candidate. If you can’t pay the intern, make sure that is clear from the beginning. Remember, if you choose not to pay the intern, you increase the likelihood of them being lured away by a job that does pay.
One exception: Pay matters less if the intern is working for class credit.
Interns: If you’re cool with not getting paid – great, consider this volunteer work! If not, let your potential supervisors know, in a professional and polite manner, of course. Most of the time an internship position will let you know how much (or not) it pays. Unless you’re like me and go digging up internships in the hopes that someone will take you in – s/o to all the stray, freelance interns)!
Most important, don’t be lazy. Regardless of whether or not you’re getting paid – you asked to be here. Put in your best effort 100% of the time and you’ll be rewarded accordingly.

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