Intern Talk: Navigating Tough Conversations

Image via nicolekcnw
Image via nicolekcnw

Internships and job searches both bring with them the need to broach difficult topics with your supervisor. Though important discussions regarding full-time employment, salary and job searching can be scary, avoiding them may lead to more difficulty down the road. Open conversations are always a good policy.

Getting Feedback
Opening yourself up for criticism – even constructive criticism – takes a while to get used to because it’s hard to hear that, despite your best efforts, you might still be doing some things wrong. Here’s the flip side: if you never ask for feedback, you’re going to continue doing it wrong. Consider talking to your internship supervisor to schedule a meeting for 15-30 minutes every week. Go over what you’re working on, challenges you’re facing and make a point to ask each time if there are areas that you can improve or ways to take your work to the next level. Sometimes you’ll have a lot to discuss and other times you won’t, but you’ll be surprised at the difference that opening yourself to feedback will have on the internship experience.

Tip: Be specific. Simply asking, “Do you have any feedback for me?” may not do the trick. Prompt your supervisor’s memory by asking about specific projects, initiatives or challenges.

Asking for Time Off
You want to impress at your internship, so asking for time away from the office is challenging but a necessary evil. Taking sick days, going to doctor’s appointments or making time to travel home for the holidays are essential to staying on point and healthy at work. Make sure to clear taking time out of the office with your supervisor in advance whenever possible, since being out may cause more work for others on your team.

Tip: On the same note, be willing to work late the day before you’ll be out or tackle daily duties from home. Expressing the desire to go above and beyond will ease the conversation.

Applying for Other Jobs
Once you start looking for a full-time job, it’s important to sit down with your supervisor to tell them of your intentions. Why is this necessary? That’s none of their business, right? Not quite. Internship supervisors are in charge of staffing internship positions and, if you’re thinking about accepting a full-time position elsewhere, they’re going to have to fill it. (Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.) The point of interning is to gain experience so that you can land a job after graduation. Good employers understand that and won’t be upset upon hearing that you’re job searching. In fact, it shows motivation and forward thinking.

Tip: Be prepared to answer questions about timing. If you landed a new position, when would it start? Your supervisor will want to know because it will influence the projects thrown your way, as well as when to start searching for a new intern.

In 2014, let’s resolve for open and honest career conversations. What other tough conversations have you encountered in the workplace, and how did you deal with them?

“Intern Talk” is a monthly guest column produced by Ellie Boggs, vice president of career services. The column covers various aspects of the public relations industry, giving PRSSA members the tools to secure internships and make the most of their professional experiences. For more career resources, visit the PRSSA Career Manual and Internship Center.


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