Am I allowed to be lazy?
March 4, 2011 8:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm starting an unpaid internship (software/engineering-related) and I've been asked to pick my own hours. I get the impression that I'm expected to work less than full time. Can I say I'll work less than full time just because I feel like it?

I was told I should come in "at least 3 days a week." But since I'm unemployed right now, I don't see why I shouldn't work full-time. To do otherwise would just be lazy, right?

On the other hand, the commute is really long, and since I'm not being paid anyway, I'd rather keep some time for personal projects I've been working on. But that doesn't seem like a reasonable excuse for working less.

I suppose I could also ask to work from home some of the time, but it may depend on computer security issues (I may not be allowed to bring any files home or access them remotely).

My questions are:
1. On what basis should I make this choice, given that my goal is just to learn and get some experience on my resume?
2. If I choose to work less than full-time, what is a non-dumb-sounding way to explain that to my employer? Or should I not attempt to explain it at all?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is your goal at this internship to get hired at this place? To get really good references?

They're probably used to student interns that can't work fulltime.

If I were you, I'd come in daily.
posted by k8t at 8:46 AM on March 4, 2011

If it's unpaid, and they asked for you at least 3 days, I'd give 4. Save one day for yourself. And then if they really, really need you the 5th day, you can throw it in as a "look how great I am, I'll go the extra mile". Give the 5th day right off the bat and you can only go down from there (or worse, up, as they want your nights, weekends, holidays, etc).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:47 AM on March 4, 2011 [9 favorites]

You could ask explicitly what their expectation is for total hours, which might be a range. I would probably do 4-5 days a week (essentially FT) in order to get the most done so that they would either be willing to hire you or recommend you as a hiree. I wouldn't work from home until you're well established b/c you want to get yourself known at the office.
posted by tangaroo at 8:57 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds like they don't expect you to come in full time, and they may not even have enough work for you to do full time. (It can be a lot of effort to come up with tasks for an intern.) Since they said "at least 3 days", I'd go for 4, like TPS suggested.

I don't think you need an excuse for working only 3 or 4 days -- you could be using the extra time to work a part-time job and make money, or to apply for jobs, or to work on your own projects. All totally respectable, and I don't think you need to explain.
posted by cider at 9:12 AM on March 4, 2011

yeah, be a little careful about overwhelming the system, so to speak. If you are going to work more than what they expect you to, make sure there is already ample, or a steady stream of work to do and that you are not burning through what is expected of you and now need people to find make-work projects for you to keep busy. It's going to be a fine line.
posted by edgeways at 9:25 AM on March 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Mod note: From the OP:
I am 99% sure I could not get hired as a full-time employee. They have very limited (government) funding, and I would probably need an advanced degree, which I don't have. So that's not one of my goals.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:18 AM on March 4, 2011

I agree with edgeways that I wouldn't overdo it. I've been the intern coordinator in my office before, and as much as I adore interns, supervising them can be a lot of time and effort, especially when they're new and need training and some hand-holding. Sometimes I was secretly relieved on their days off. And I don't think you need to explain yourself if you want to work less than 5 days - saying "I'm available on A, B, C, and D days" is fine, and "personal projects" is really fine if you feel the need to say something. I like the 4 days idea, since it's more than they asked for. Don't completely overwork yourself for an unpaid internship that isn't going to turn into a job - just do excellent work while you're there.
posted by naoko at 11:36 AM on March 4, 2011

I think I'd come in 3 days a week at first and see if they have enough work for you to do, and then volunteer extra time if they do. There is a tendency with internship jobs where you may very well run out of work to do, and that's probably why they don't need you to do full time. On the one hand, it's great to be efficient, but on the other hand, it does lead to awkward moments when you are all "I'm done! What else?" and they are all, "uh......"

It's an internship. You don't need to be doing 40 hours a week at it, and they probably don't want you to do that much. I did 10 hours a week at mine in college, eventually raising it to 20 when they gave me money, but yeah, I was the one who got done and then they were all "uh...." about it. Just let them know that you could do more time if they need it, let you know.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:41 AM on March 4, 2011

>> To do otherwise would just be lazy, right?

Depends what you do in the rest of the time. If I were you I'd save myself a day and start a project on my own: create a tool that you can use and open source it, start a webapp and see if you can't make some side money, do freelance work. Or shit, just read poems all day.

If you feel bad, let them know that you can pitch in extra hours if they need you.
posted by miniape at 11:50 AM on March 4, 2011

« Older Where can i find a suit and tailor in NYC?   |   I want to be taken seriously, but . . not THAT... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.