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I am a 20-year old college student and I'm just about to finish up my third year before going home for the summer. I worked as an intern last summer and during my winter break as a programmer. As far as I can tell, I am a far more valuable asset to the company than any intern has been in the past. From what I understand, most intern tasks at this company consisted if the usual monotonous tasks interns are given--normalizing data, entering data, other busywork--the typical grind.

I, however, have been programming since I was in middle school, and was quick to offer up my talents and started coding for the company relatively fast, rising above that typical intern grind and working on public-facing websites, SEO, automation, internal-use tool design, and other "higher level" tasks. In fact, I know for certain that one small automation project I worked on has more than paid for my employment. According to my coworkers, I'm not the typical intern. Apologies if this comes across as big-headed; I'm just trying to fill you in as to my value to this company relative to most people who have had my position in the past.

So, when I left last summer to go back to school my boss said that unless something changed, he'd be happy to have me back again the following summer at the same pay. He then looked at me, gestured with his hand and quickly added, "negotiably", as if to reassure me somehow that he he knew I was worth more. I fear that I may be reading too far into this quick addition to his sentence and that it may have simply been a throwaway thought. After all, I've only worked there for a grand total of four months since last June. On the other hand, I do believe that I have provided a substantial value for my wage ($10/hr) and position in the company. I have a fairly broad skillset and I've put a lot of it to use, and I do genuinely believe that my boss has been impressed by me.

For what it's worth, over the summer he did offer me a job if I quit school (semi-jokingly) and then gave me a more serious offer for a salaried position around December, when a developer left the company. I turned it down, as I do not want to quit school, but I told him I would love to continue working for him when I could. I then worked for him for a month when I was home for winter break.

To make a long story short, I am going to be contacting him shortly to make sure that he would still like me to work for him this summer. I have no reason to believe that he doesn't want/need me, so I'm fairly confident that I will have a job there this summer. I would like to ask for a larger compensation, as he implied was a possibility at the end of last summer. What I would like to know is when the best time to ask would be. I can think of three times to bring up the topic, as follows:

  1. Before I get home and begin working again. This would have to be via email or the phone.
  2. Right off the bat before I do anything on the first day
  3. After I get settled in, get my computer and desk set up, before I actually start working

If someone has a suggestion other than these, I would love to hear them.

This also makes me wonder if asking for more compensation would even be appropriate. I assume it would be, based on the value I've provided, my boss's comment about his negotiability, and the fact that I'm technically an independent contractor (despite showing up to work in the same manner that everyone else does). If anyone has any advice that is relevant to my situation, I would be very grateful.

Again, apologies if this is way too much information. Please let me know if it is, so I don't make the same mistake in the future. I really appreciate any help you can give me, as I'm still very new to the office life.

Thanks so much, everyone!

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    What's your degree in? $10/hr is much less than what a competent programmer can make even as an intern. – enderland Apr 30 '13 at 10:28
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    maybe edit this and take away a lot of the background. it's off-putting when the first two or three paragraphs are just self-aggrandizing rhetoric – squeemish Apr 30 '13 at 11:54
  • $10/hour? that's barely minimum wage in the US. You are worth much more, like double that. You should search the country for other employment. – kevin cline Jan 16 '14 at 5:40
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If you believe your boss was hinting that he could pay you more, then feel free to negotiate a bit. The right time to negotiate is always before an agreement is reached, before you start working.

Do a bit of research, and find out if there are other companies at which you could work as an intern, and what they are paying folks in your position. Many schools have placement or internship offices that can help you with that. What you want to have here is at least a few possible landing spots that can pay you at least as much, if not more - while still providing the work experience that interns need to concentrate on the most.

You should get right on it now, set up a time that is convenient, and call your former boss. Indicate that you are lining up possible summer internship positions again, that you enjoyed your prior work, feel like you did a good job for them, and would like to return.

Then, ask something along the lines of "The last few times I've worked for you, I was paid $10/hr. What will the pay rate be this year?" You are basically hinting that you are looking for more. Most sharp bosses will pick up on that gentle hint and be ready to either tell you that they cannot offer more, or will come back with a sweetened offer.

That said, remember that as an intern, more money is good, but a few dollars per hour isn't really what you should be most concerned about. You want to intern in an environment where you can learn, grow professionally, and set yourself up for a great career. You want your internship to look great on your resume. And you might even want to set yourself up for employment with this company.

I've hired lots of interns. The best ones come in wanting to work hard and to learn everything. I've gone on to try to find internal positions for them upon graduation. And when that didn't work out, I've given them great recommendations to work for my friends in other companies.

I've told some interns that, while I'd love to have them come back the following year for another internship, I thought it would be best for them professionally to work for a different company. That way, they would learn how other companies do things, and provide insight that I couldn't provide.

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    +1 for the "few dollars per hour" paragraph. Interning is an investment that pays off later. – Blrfl Apr 30 '13 at 11:39
  • I think it's one of those things you have to have been on both sides of the table to understand. Although I'd probably consider an end-of-summer bonus for doing something that saved us a bunch of money. – Blrfl Apr 30 '13 at 15:34
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    Also consider whether you'd work for this company after graduation, and if you'd expect the pay to be in line with other positions in the area. Having your foot in the door may be worth sucking it up on the pay short term, if it's a good place to be. – brichins Jan 14 '14 at 23:53

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