A reader writes:
A connection of mine, through my alma mater, sent on my resume for an internship gig. A couple days later, the internship guy (Bob) contacted me for an interview the following week. Yesterday I went on this interview, and he gave me the internship right on the spot, to start next Wednesday. It would be part time, three days a week, 15 hours/week.
The thing is, during the interview he said he wasn’t sure if they’d be able to offer me the usual stipend for the internship. The reason is that this company has an agreement with my alma mater regarding supplying interns/giving preferential treatment to my alma mater. My school gives them interns, and they almost always hire them. The stipend, $500/month, is for those interns.
However, I am a different case because I already graduated. Bob took my resume and interviewed me knowing this. At the interview he had mentioned, however, that this special situation (of hiring an alumnus as opposed to a student) might change the stipend agreement, and Bob’s company may not be able to pay me (but they’d still “hire” me as an unpaid intern). But he is not positive.
I want to follow up with my usual post-interview thank you email. In this email I want to address this issue, because while I would love love LOVE this opportunity, I cannot do it without getting paid. As someone on the job hunt, I cannot afford spending nearly $200/month in public transportation without any sort of financial incentive. Also, due to the transportation times, I would not really be able to take a job for the mornings of the internship days, because although it’s 5 hours/day for the internship, it’s 9 hours including transportation.
Basically, I want to know how I should approach this. I know I definitely should raise my concern before I start, it’s just that I don’t know how. I don’t want to come off as “you better pay me or I’ll turn down this offer” but really, that’s the case. What should I do?
Well, first, are you sure you can do it for a stipend of $300/month after transportation costs? That is very little. And yes, I know it’s a stipend, not an actual wage, but make sure you’re doing the math on this — you’re saying you can’t do this unpaid, but you actually will be basically doing this unpaid, even if you get the stipend.
And on top of that, are you sure you want a part-time internship that’s basically unpaid that will require you to commute 4 hours round-trip every day? Because, um, that’s a little bit insane, unless this internship is going to open doors for you like no other internship ever has in the history of everyone.
But let’s say that you want it anyway, so that I can answer your actual question.
There is nothing wrong with coming across as “if you don’t pay me what I’m asking for, I won’t take the job.” That is very, very normal. That is normal when the salary being discussed is in the six figures, and it’s sure as hell normal when you’re talking about a basically unpaid internship. Discussing money is not a taboo topic when you’re considering taking a job — it is a normal part of adult life, and I can promise you that the internship coordinator will think it’s normal too.
So send him an email and just be straightforward: “I’m really interested in the job and would love to work with you, but my ability to accept it would depend on being able to receive the stipend.”
Straightforward, direct, done.
But really, give some serious thought to why you’re thinking about taking on a four-hour round-trip commute for an internship.