How to Deal With a Less-than-Stellar Internship

Internships are meant to set you up for success. That’s an exciting opportunity! What isn’t so exciting? When you show up day after day and realize your summer gig isn’t anything like you expected (and in a bad way). You might be counting down the days until this temporary assignment is over, but in the meantime, here’s how to deal.

You’re not getting enough work.

It’s frustrating when your day-to-day tasks consist of coffee runs and scrolling through Instagram until your email pings you with a new trivial assignment. You’re there to learn, aren’t you?

First of all, speak up! (We know, we know…it’s nervewracking as an intern.) But this can be as simple as saying, “I feel like I’ve gotten a firm grasp on my current assignments — is there anything new I can take on?” Easy peasy, right?

Second, seek out other ways to make the most of your time there. You may not be experienced enough to handle that big client call your boss scheduled, but what if you asked to simply listen in? Similarly, you can ask to shadow other colleagues every once in a while. Observing other professionals is a great learning opportunity that can potentially open doors to more meaningful assignments.



You hate the work culture.

From abrasive coworkers to overwhelmingly fast-paced days, a misfit in work culture can leave you feeling burnt out and discouraged. The good news? This is an important learning. Not everybody thrives in the same type of work environment, and figuring out your best fit may involve some trial and error.

As long as you’re not being mistreated (or stressed to the point where you feel sick), it’s worth sticking out the role until the end. In the meantime, think about how you can frame this as important work experience. As a start, you’re learning to be adaptable, sharpen your problem-solving skills, and communicate effectively with different professional personalities.


You don’t enjoy the job responsibilities. 

Panic might start setting in when you realize you simply don’t enjoy the job you thought you’d love. Are you on the totally wrong career path? Was your major a complete waste of time?

Relax. Deep breath. It isn’t the end of the world.

If you truly feel you chose the wrong field, don’t sweat it. Remember how we said internships are learning opportunities? Sometimes that means learning you need to steer your path in a different direction. See this opportunity to the end and reap the benefits of the transferable skills you’ll gain. Then, spend some time reflecting on your next move. Do you like the tasks but would just prefer interning in a different industry next time? Are there other types of opportunities that align with your major? Or, maybe you’d benefit best from changing your major completely.


You’re overworked.

As an intern, it’s really frustrating admitting when you’re overworked. You might be thinking, “Won’t I look bad if I can’t handle everything on my plate?” This is where your problem-solving skills will come in.

Before anything else, see if there’s anything you can do from your end to lighten the weight on your shoulders — like adopting new organizational tactics and changing your day-to-day processes to better manage your time. If you’ve tried this and still feel frustrated, it’s time to talk to your manager. Let them know you’ve worked through a few of your own solutions, but could still use some extra assistance tackling your workload. This way, you’re simply asking for help rather than admitting defeat.


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