While internships are often served on a voluntary basis without pay, many students need or want to find a paying internship. Of course, a paid internship is a very coveted position, and the competition for this opportunity is extremely high. Considering those two facts, however, how can you negotiate an internship offer? How much is too much, and how far are you willing to go as far as negotiating terms?
- Who Can Negotiate? Well, of course, anyone can negotiate, but it may not always be in a person's best interest. Before you begin the negotiation process, consider the position and what benefits you might gain from securing that internship. What are your main goals? Do you want to simply gain experience, and thus perceive a paying internship as a bonus to this opportunity regardless of the pay? Or, are you in dire need of some monetary compensation while you attempt to build your work portfolio?
- When to Negotiate? If you've decided that you want at least some of the terms of the negotiation to be yours, then you next need to decide when to negotiate. Timing can be everything, especially if you are only dealing with one person who holds the key to your internship terms. Because you may not know when you will be notified that you're being strongly considered for the available position, it is very important that you prepare ahead of time. Think about the company, the position, your needs, and what your bottom line is. Have the answers to these questions already in your head before you interview for the placement. You may be asked about your internship needs during the first interview, or you may not be asked at all. While you certainly don't want to walk into an interview with unrealistic demands, you can develop a sense of timing and opportunity. If you feel that you have the best chance of securing the internship based on your qualifications or connections, then by all means broach the subject with the employer.
- What to Negotiate? When people think of negotiations, the first word they typically associate with the term is money. While your salary as an intern may certainly be important to you, there are other terms that may need to be negotiated as well. For example, what will your duties as an intern be? What hours will you be expected to work? How long will your internship be? All of these points may be negotiable. For example: An employer might offer to begin paying you after you've worked for one month. If you are seeking monetary compensation immediately, however, you might counter that offer by saying that you would work for a reduced amount of money for one month before receiving a raise if your work is satisfactory.
- How to Negotiate? Before you can begin negotiations, arm yourself with knowledge. Research the company as much as possible. Familiarize yourself with the possible duties for which you are applying. Be sure and negotiate with the person in charge of making the decision. You don't want to rely on secondhand negotiations. Be ready to negotiate at any time during an interview that you feel is appropriate. This may be the first interview or the second or third, and it is up to you to sense an opportunity or advantage. Be confident, yet realistic. Present all the facts concerning what you have to offer to the company as well as what you hope to gain from the internship. Maintain a pleasant appearance during negotiation. Finally, negotiation obviously means you may not get exactly what you want, but if you show that you are willing to work out the differences between your employer and your own expectations, you may gain valuable ground in the negotiation process, if not now, then maybe in the near future.