Tips for Making a Bad Internship Work for You

Nervous Looking Intern Carrying Tray of Coffee Mugs

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You've searched for your internship forever, and you've found one that seems promising on paper, and it excited you. You've aced the interview. You've had a fantastic on-boarding. But, as the days pass you've started noticing that you're having some unexpected challenges. The first thing to do is not to "bolt." If your experience isn't what you hoped it'd be, you can still attempt to turn it around and make it work for you.

What to Consider Before Leaving a Bad Internship

Don’t dismiss an internship 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 the filing is just a part of your job, do it gracefully and move on to more challenging tasks. Switching back and forth between tedious and challenging work will also help prevent boredom. On the other hand, you shouldn't despair or take it personally if your internship is too challenging. 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 you’d want 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 an excellent 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. 
  3. 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 enjoy.
  4. 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 present that you'd prefer not to work together with. It's important to accept and learn to work with all kinds of people, including the annoying ones.
  5. Give More to Get More - After you get through your tedious 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. You'll be able to turn things around more often than not.