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I'm in a Bad Internship, Now What?

Tips for Improving a Bad Internship & Making it Work Out


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For the inexperienced college student surviving a bad internship may seem insurmountable at first. For starters, interns generally go into their internship with a positive attitude and if the internship turns out to be less than what’s expected, students may lose sight of the fact that they can still take something positive away from the experience. Although many internships turn out to be amazing experiences, don’t jump ship too early if your internship ends up being not as exciting as you had expected.

What to consider before leaving a “bad internship”.

Don’t dismiss an internship too soon because you find that you are making coffee and emptying the garbage. Every job and internship has something that makes it less than ideal but what’s key is to look at the overall picture and what kinds of other experiences your getting that will help you to learn valuable skills on the job. Filing is another task that interns look down on. Unfortunately even with computers, filing is a necessary part of just about any position. Again if filing is just a piece of the job, do it gracefully and move on to the more challenging aspects of the job that offers an opportunity to further expand your skills and knowledge. Read what Richard Bottner of InternBridge did to make his bad internship work out.

Make good use of your time.

Some days may be better than others but on those not-so-good days try to make the best use of your time. By dividing up tasks and duties perhaps you can combine the challenging aspects of the job with the not-so-challenging to create a little variety and to keep yourself from becoming totally bored.

Don’t let a bad internship affect who you are.

If an internship is creating challenges on a daily basis, don’t take the problems personally and let it damage your self-esteem. Sometimes the growth that is experienced by becoming successful in handling challenges is the best thing that you can learn from in an internship. No matter what you’re doing it is never wise to give up too soon because what doesn’t break you will only make you stronger.

If stuck in a bad internship here are some things you might want to try.

  1. Why do you feel it’s a bad internship?

    First thing you want to do is to write down everything about your internship that you don’t like.

  2. Make an appointment to speak with your supervisor.

    Let your supervisor know what things you’d like to see changed – hours, responsibilities, more challenge, more work, less work, whatever it may be.

  3. Remember that all internships are learning experiences whether they be good or bad. Sometimes a bad internship can teach you more than a good internship. The beauty of internships is that they are very limited, short -term experiences that generally don’t last more than several months.

  4. Keep your internship in perspective and don’t let it consume you.

    Once you leave the office be sure to do some things that you enjoy and go out and have some fun.

  5. Make it a point to develop new friends by trying to get to know your co-workers.

    Things often don’t seem so bad if you can focus on other things and don’t take the job too seriously. Are there social events that you can attend after work? If so, don’t isolate yourself and keep yourself apart from other people in the organization. It’s wise not to complain about your boss or your internship experience to co-workers, so find a trusted friend when you you just need to vent your feelings and perhaps you will be able to get a new and different perspective to your problem.

  6. Don’t fall into the rut of engaging in gossip or office politics.

    Being part of the gossip mill or discussing one’s personal political beliefs can create bad feelings and controversy in the workplace. By not engaging in these types of discussions or any other types of conflict you are demonstrating your maturity and professional integrity.

  7. Look to find a professional mentor.

    Finding a good mentor at the organization where you are interning can make all the difference when you’re struggling through a bad internship experience. Many students find that their mentors are invaluable in helping them turn a bad internship into one in which they actually enjoy.

  8. Do not quit your internship unless the experience is totally unbearable.

    As mentioned previously, there is always something you can learn from at an internship. Don’t jump ship too soon or you won’t have the opportunity to learn from the experience plus you may lose the chance to get a good reference or to get relevant work experience to include on your resume.

  9. Look for ways that you can turn your internship around.

    If the problem is more of a difference in personality, what can you do to get along better with your boss or your co-workers? This may be an invaluable experience if you can make it work because it is something you will be dealing with in the real world once you get a job.

  10. Be willing to always do more at your internship and show management that you have what it takes to be successful.

    Working through problems and finding solutions will show management that you are a mature and responsible adult. You may try to find creative ways that help you work through the challenges which can earn you the respect of both your supervisors and your peers.

  11. Don’t accept abuse in any form whether it be verbal, nonverbal or sexual or racial harassment.

    It’s always important to maintain your personal integrity and self-worth and that goes for not accepting bad and unprofessional behavior from your managers or coworkers. You should maintain your dignity at all times and don’t let it be jeopardized by anyone no matter what their position is in the organization.

Bad internships just like bad jobs are likely to occur now and then and it’s the interns / employees job to handle it in the most professional way possible. Sometimes the only answer is to quit, but before you do, make sure that it’s not a situation that can be improved with a little creativity.

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