5 top tips for being more assertive at your internship

Many people struggle to be assertive at the office – especially when they are just starting out at their job or internship. Navigating the office hierarchy and tackling the workload while still advocating for yourself can be a challenge for anyone. Though it’s important not to complain about work or shirk responsibilities at the office, it’s important to maintain boundaries and advocate for yourself. You’re donating your time and energy to a company – you deserve respect too! We’ve made the tricky task a little easier. Check out our 5 top tips for being more assertive at your internship:


#1 – Establish boundaries

Generally, it’s important to say “yes” as much as possible during an internship. You want to build a reputation as a good worker and someone in the office who can be depended on. That being said, it’s important that whatever work you’re doing is quality. Your work won’t be worth anything if it’s been rushed and it’s full of errors. If you feel like your workload is piling up, it’s important to communicate this to your supervisor and say “no” when you need to. That said, make sure to give a valid explanation if you aren’t able to take on a project.


#2 – Don’t feel guilty for advocating for yourself

Nobody knows your needs better than you. That means you need to speak up for yourself and prioritize your own well-being and success. You can do this in a way that is both respectful and respectable, but first you have to let go of any guilt that you may feel for advocating for your own needs. Sometimes you can’t stay late, for example, because you have a personal commitment that’s been planned for weeks and is important to your happiness. Celebrate yourself for knowing your own limitations and prioritizing your pleasure instead of beating yourself up. The happier you are, and the more open you are about your needs, the better colleague you’ll be.


tips for being more assertive


#3 – Communicate your needs

If certain needs aren’t being met at the office, it’s important to express that to your supervisor in a clear, open and friendly way. Ask if you can grab a coffee with them or get together for a short meeting in their office. Obviously, there will be limitations to what your manager can do in certain cases, but they will most likely be happy to work with you on making the internship a better situation, as long as it is in line with company policy.


#4 – Write down points before you say them

It happens to all of us at some point. We have thoughts, critiques or comments that we want to express and then we shy away from saying them when the spotlight’s on us. To avoid clamming up, write down the most important points that you would like to make in a notebook. Write them out how you would like to say them. Having these thoughts down in a clear and concise way will help remind you of what you want to say and how to say it when it’s time to speak up.


tips for being more assertive


#5 – Practice

Becoming more assertive happens over time. People who are shy, non-confrontational or introverted aren’t incapable of being assertive – it just takes a little more effort and practice. Challenge yourself every day to do something that forces you to assert yourself. It may be minor like asking to change the temperature on the thermostat or speaking up in a meeting about a change that you think needs to be made in a presentation. Practicing assertiveness will make it easier to weigh in when bigger issues arise in the future.



Take what you’ve learned from these useful tips for being more assertive and put them into practice at an international internship. Apply now to boost your career.


Sources: http://psychcentral.com/lib/5-tips-to-increase-your-assertiveness/2/


1. based on Shy, by Tom Edgington, CC-by-2.0

2. based on Alec Ross during media interviews – The Project (R)evolution conference 2012, by US Embassy, CC-by-ND 2.0

3. based on _MG_0421, by Masa Israel Journey, CC-by-ND 2.0


The International Internships Blog is a collaboration by The Intern Group staff, alumni and current participants to give you career advice & tips, program information, & so much more!

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Elizabeth Trovall

After short stints in Argentina and Belize, Elizabeth is finishing up her fourth year in Santiago, Chile. Elizabeth writes about international internships, life abroad and professional development for The Intern Group. She also reports on politics, business and culture in Latin America for public radio and print media. An Austin, Texas native, Elizabeth first left home to earn her journalism degree from the Reynolds Institute of Journalism at the University of Missouri. Besides her friends and family, she misses live music and Mexican food the most.
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