I'm in a Bad Internship, Now What?

Tips for Making a Bad Internship Work for You

Nervous looking intern carrying tray of coffee mugs
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Inexperienced college students may find a bad internship insurmountable but there are ways you can turn it around. The first thing to do is not "bolt."

What to Consider Before Leaving a Bad Internship

Don’t dismiss an internship too soon just because your tasks include making coffee and filing. Every job and internship comes with drudge work. The key is to look at the overall picture and identify tasks you can turn into learning experiences. If filing is just a part of your job, do it gracefully and move on to more challenging tasks. Switching back and forth between boring and challenging work will also help prevent boredom. On the other hand, if your internship is too challenging don't despair and don't take it personally.

Instead, seek out help and advice from your direct report or a colleague. 

To-Do List for Handling a Bad Internship

The first thing to do is write down everything about your internship that you don’t like. Next:

  1. Speak to your supervisor. Let your supervisor know what things you’d like to change such as hours, responsibilities, more work, less work or more challenging work. Keep a daily log so you are well-prepared when you meet with your boss.
  2. Befriend your co-workers. Seek out after-work social events as a way to make friends and learn more about the industry. Socializing with colleagues after work is also a good way to gain insight into the corporate culture. You may also find that you are not alone. For example, you may be struggling with an overly-critical boss and discover your boss has a reputation for being demanding and it has nothing to do with the quality of your work. 
  1. Find a professional mentor. Finding a good mentor at your organization can make all the difference when you’re struggling through a bad internship. Many students find that a caring mentor is invaluable in helping them turn a bad internship into one they actually enjoy.
  2. Learn to get along. If the problem is a personality conflict, view it as an opportunity to prepare yourself for the future. No matter where you work there will always be people you prefer not to work with. It's important to accept and learn to work with all kinds of people, including the annoying ones.
  1. Give more to get more. After you get through your boring tasks show management you take work seriously. Take the initiative by approaching your boss for more challenging responsibilities, even if it means working on your lunch break. In the end, your resume (and skill set) will be more impressive.

Bad internships happen to good people but before you quit do everything possible to improve your situation. More often than not you'll be able to turn things around.