What to Do If Your Internship Is a Waste of Time

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Now that we are in internship season, thousands of college students are just beginning their internships for the summer.  With the arrival of summer, many college students and even recent grads are starting their internships in a variety of industries and organizations. It’s that time when interns are developing new knowledge and skills, improving their resumes, connecting with professionals in the field, and perhaps getting closer to being offered a full-time job after the internship is over.

But each year there are a number of internships that students begin and quickly find out that they are not the same as what was described in the original interview. Many students begin their internships with high expectations and then quickly learn that this is not going to be the internship that they dreamed about.

The good news is that it’s not a job and will only be lasting between eight to twelve week, but the bad news is that the time spent at the internship leaves a lot to be desired and doesn’t include any real learning or additional skill development. Here are signs your internship may be a dead end and what to do.

You Are Only Given Menial Tasks With No Room for Growth or Learning

It doesn’t matter who you are, there are always those menial tasks that need to get done and someone at some time is going to have to chip in and do them. As the company intern, those menial tasks may fall on your shoulders, which offers you an opportunity to show your dedication by putting on a smile and just pitching in and getting the work done.

Resolution: If you find that all you are doing is answering phones, making coffee, emptying the garbage, and filing; it may be time to write down your expectations based on your interview and have an honest discussion with your supervisor.

There Is No Formal Job Description or Work Assignments Planned

In order to do anything well, there needs to be some type of guidelines to follow. In order to be successful at any internship or job, there must be clear expectations. Without clear expectations as to the work that the organization would like to have accomplished, you are doomed to failure due to confusion. You may not be doing what the employer is expecting you to accomplish.

Resolution: Make it your responsibility at the start of your internship to ask what the employer would like you to accomplish. Ask for assigned tasks and have your supervisor define his/her expectations. Ask for both big assignments and smaller ones that you can do when there's a lull to keep yourself busy. If you find yourself with time on your hands, do some research and get your hands on professional literature, information about the company, or any other resource that will help you learn more about what’s trendy and what some of the challenges are in the industry.

Your Internship Requires Less Than Part-Time Hours

It takes time to learn how to do anything well and the less time you have to learn the relevant knowledge and skills required to do a specific job, the less time you will have to master those important skills that are needed for you to do an excellent job.

Resolution: If the interviewer originally told you that you would be getting approximately 25 hours per week at your internship but you find you are only getting 12, it’s time to schedule a meeting with your supervisor to discuss the number of hours and to let him/her know that they are not what was originally agreed on and that they do not meet your expectations.  

There Is No Feedback and Very Little Time Spent With Your Supervisor.

Nothing can be more frustrating than not knowing if you are meeting the expectations of your supervisor. You may be keeping yourself busy but if you don’t know exactly what you should be doing it will hold you back on how much effort you put in, and you'll have no idea if you are doing a good job.

Resolution: Schedule a time to meet with your supervisor and let them know that you would like to meet regularly to go over your work and to get some feedback. This should be done sooner rather than later so that you have the direction you need to do a good job.

You Feel Threatened on the Job

Resolution: This one is a no-brainer.  If there is any reason that you feel threatened on the job, go to your supervisor immediately and let him/her know that you can no longer work there and explain the situation if you are comfortable to do so.

Whatever the circumstances, if you do decide to leave your internship, make sure that you do so in a professional manner. Ask to speak with your supervisor directly and if at all possible be prepared to give one to two weeks’ notice. If the situation is compromising your safety or physical or mental well-being, then it’s best to let your supervisor know why you feel that you need to leave the internship immediately. A sample resignation letter can be a way to leave the organization on a positive note.