How to Deal With A Subpar Internship

By Julia D on June 30, 2018

You just landed a social media internship at an advertising firm. Everything about it looks excellent, and your start date is the day immediately after the last day of the school year. You’re thrilled about the pay, hours, and position, and you’re eager to prove your abilities and work towards success this summer.

On the first day, you meet your coworkers and chat with your boss about the first few projects you’ll be tackling. Things are still looking great after day three and four, but after a couple of weeks, you realize you’re sort of unhappy with your internship. What do you do?

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Luckily, I have never had this experience myself but I’ve had friends who went from excitement over their internship position to frustration in a matter of days. It can be disheartening to come to terms with unhappiness in any workplace.

To address the situation, you need to first identify what exactly is bothering you. In your mind, what would need to change in order for you to thrive? Pinpointing this is the first step to solving the problem; here are four common internship problems and how to resolve them.

1. You’re confused or unsure about what to do

It can be intimidating to ask for help early on in an internship. You may have internalized the notion that asking for help is a sign of weakness, or that you’ll seem incompetent if you double check with your boss about an assignment they explained to you ten minutes ago. In actuality, the opposite is much more likely to be true; your supervisors and coworkers will see you as somebody who cares about doing a stellar job at any task somebody gives you. They’ll admire your ability to admit that you didn’t understand quite how to make that complicated materials order from the office supply store, or you didn’t know how to operate the new graphic design program the company just implemented. You’ll feel much more secure in your work if you ask for help when you need it.

2. The days feel long and you feel sluggish

You might not actually be bothered by the internship itself, but by how you physically feel at work.

Many students take public transportation to their internships every day. This can take a toll on the body if you’re having to wake up extra early to catch a bus or walk half an hour in the sun after work to get on a train. Make sure you’ve optimized the logistics: adjust your sleep schedule so that you aren’t yawning every three minutes at your internship.

Pack a big enough lunch so that you aren’t starving by the time you leave, and bring plenty of snacks to munch on throughout the day. Personally, I find that snacks can actually be significant motivators to help you get through the day. After hours, make sure you are eating nutritious food so that you arrive at your internship feeling energized and hydrated. Taking care of your body can improve your general disposition, thus helping you enjoy your internship.

3. You don’t actually enjoy the job duties after all

This is a common problem among college students who accept internships that they aren’t totally sure about from the start. An article by suggests “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?”

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It’s often helpful to find out what you definitely don’t want to do as a career, because it’s one step closer to you discovering your dream job. If you find yourself bored, unstimulated, or uninterested in the work you’re doing alone, ask your supervisor for additional responsibilities that may be a little outside the capacity in which you were hired. If you were hired as a public relations intern at a company but you’re more interested in the legal world, ask whether you might be allowed to shadow the contracts manager or help out in any way for half an hour per day. This way, you aren’t neglecting the job duties you were hired to perform, you’re just doing more in the interest of learning about what excites you.

4. You’re being harassed by a coworker

Serious matters like harassment or bullying at work definitely constitute grounds for leaving, no matter how much you might enjoy the work you’re doing. No intern should face any discrimination or mistreatment at work. Talk to your Human Resources department to see what your options are for addressing the issue at hand. You might also discuss with your supervisor or boss the experiences you’re having; nobody should tolerate harassment.

You’ll find, ultimately, those negative internship experiences are opportunities to rethink, reflect, and readjust. If you can’t change your circumstances, it’s okay to leave, but try to stick it out if you can. Things do get easier over time–if you dislike feeling out of the loop or unfamiliar with how things work in the office, the best thing you can do is stay and spend time absorbing all the procedures and activities that go on. Internships truly are about growth; turn every experience into an opportunity!

By Julia D

Uloop Writer

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