How To: Make the Best of a Less Than Ideal Internship

In my last post I talked about how difficult internships can be, which is just one of many truths associated with internships. This week I thought I’d address one of the other unfortunate realities in the world of the Intern:

Sometimes, dear reader(s), your internship just isn’t going to be very good.

If you find yourself in this situation (e.g., literally or figuratively pulling your little hairs out), then these tips are for you:

1.    Never say, “There’s nothing for me to do right now.” There’s always something you can do. See Tips 2 through 5.

2.    Get up to date on the company. Browse the Internet to see how the company is being covered in the press. Have they won any awards recently? Who are their competitors? It also can’t hurt to take the time to browse any company manuals and other related materials made available to you as an intern.

3.    Reach out to other departments. Learning about the other departments within the company is going to shed new light on the department in which you’re working. You certainly don’t want to step on anyone else’s toes, but introducing yourself to employees in another department can’t hurt. While this tip won’t apply to every internship out there, I’ve seen it work to the advantage of many interns I’ve worked with over the past year. Don’t go in blind. Do some research beforehand and set a goal or two before connecting with another department.

4.    Give yourself projects. Got nothing to do? Find something to do! If you’re internship lacks structure, talk to your supervisor and ask if you can make one-sheets or an “Intern Guide” for future interns. Leaving your mark by adding something tangible to the company is one way to fill your time and to also make sure they remember your name once your internship is over. Be sure to run any projects by a supervisor to make sure they don’t have something of a higher priority for you to complete.

5.    Ask for an initial, midterm, and/or final evaluation. Criticism can help you to grow and improve throughout the semester. Moreover, with concrete goals in mind, finding meaningful tasks to complete each day will become a little bit easier.

And if by the end of the semester you find that you didn’t have an overall positive internship experience, just remember that it’s over. Take whatever you learned, put it on your resume, and start thinking about your next move.

Rock on.

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