The Common Challenges New Interns Face

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After doing your homework and researching employers, submitting a well-written professional resume and cover letter, and maintaining a proactive approach to the internship process, you’ve landed what seems to be the perfect internship for the summer.

Like most interns, you are ready to start gaining professional experience, but the first day on the job can be frustrating if your expectations are not met. Here's how to sustain professional competence and ensure your internship is valuable and enjoyable.

Take a Rational Approach to Problems

The learning curve associated with a new job is steep, and there will inevitably be mishaps early in the process. Learn to ask questions, take a logical approach to any situation, and not to jump to conclusions or take anything personally as you attempt to resolve concerns. Here are some common challenges interns face during the first few weeks on the job.

Problem 1: Being Assigned All of the Grunt Work

First, remember that you must pay your dues as an intern to eventually get the full-time job of your dreams. There is a lot to learn about the organization, its people, its mission, and the clientele it serves, and much of that learning takes place while doing the run-of-the-mill work.

SOLUTION: By changing your perspective of menial tasks, you may turn a disadvantageous situation into one of advantage. For example, while making the coffee you might make interesting acquaintances. While filing documents, you can learn more about company operations.

Problem 2: You Have Not Been Compensated for Your Work

You may have been offered $15 per hour but notice you are only receiving $10 per hour in your weekly paycheck. Or, promised reimbursement for transportation or food has not been proferred after two or three weeks. If either of these or a similar situation are the case, it is important to find out what may be the problem before you become disheartened and your attitude is affected. No one will blame you for checking on compensation or reimbursement.

SOLUTION: If you were assigned to an HR representative during your onboarding, contact them and find out why you are not receiving the compensation you expected. If you do not have an HR contact, talk to your immediate supervisor or the person who you were in contact with when you were hired.

Problem 3: You Feel Overwhelmed and Unable to Perform to the Best of Your Ability

It is not unusual for interns to feel overwhelmed, and many are certainly given a heavy load with minimal training. Persevere in the early stages, and give yourself some time to come up to speed. If you feel pressured by your supervisor, explain that you want to take the time necessary to do a good job and minimize mistakes.

However, if the discomfort is persistent, and you do not feel that things are getting any easier, you might want to reconsider if the internship is worth continuing.

SOLUTION: Seek a second opinion from other interns, a colleague at work, or someone who you trust to give you a good perspective. It might be that you are being too hard on yourself and that you are performing just fine. It might be that your employer has unreasonable demands. If you suspect the latter, talk to your supervisor about their expectations and for feedback on your performance. Although difficult, a frank discussion about performance and expectations shows maturity. Learning to be comfortable in this situation will stand you in good stead for future performance conversations.

Problem 4: You Receive Little to No Feedback

Regular evaluations are vital for all employees, but particularly for interns and entry-level candidates. Employees need to know if they are doing a good job or if something needs to change. Many employers overlook the need for feedback, which places the onus on you to seek it out.

SOLUTION: If you receive little or no feedback, ask your supervisor if you are performing adequately. It could be a casual question over coffee if you feel more comfortable with a less formal setting. This approach allows your supervisor to be less guarded about having overlooked the need to tell you how you are doing. You can also glean insights by asking your supervisor's advice about certain work-related subjects such as how you should handle situation A, B, and C.

Many challenges that you will face in the workplace are associated with approaching problems and other people in an appropriate way; problems can seem insurmountable, and people can seem unreasonable. Learn this, and you learn the hardest lesson of all.