The right internship can help you find your passions, develop your skills and build your professional network. The wrong internship, on the other hand, can lead to burnout and frustration.
If you think you hate your internship, here’s what you should do:
1.) Identify the Why
With any complication you run into, it’s important to get to the root of it. The same goes for if you are in a situation where you are not enjoying your internship. Start by asking yourself, Why am I not enjoying this internship?
There are various reasons why you might not be enjoying your internship. It can be the workload, the project type, the compensation, the list goes on and on. It can even be that you do enjoy the work that you are doing, but that you’re just not getting along well with your co-workers. It’s critical to not interpret a poor internship experience as an indicator that you are not skilled or passionate in a certain type of work and/or industry until you’ve clearly identified the why.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What do I want to gain from an internship (experience, knowledge, skillset...etc.)?
- What were my expectations going in? What are some ways this internship has been meeting my expectations? What are some ways this internship has not been meeting my expectations?
- What am I learning? What am I not learning that I wish to be learning?
- What are my relationships with my co-workers and/or supervisor(s) like?
- What are some key things I would change about my internship? What are some key things I would keep?
It’s critical to not interpret a poor internship experience as an indicator that you are not skilled or passionate in a certain type of work and/or industry until you’ve clearly identified the why.
2.) Identify the Factors You Can Change
Once you’ve identified your whys, broaden your view and think about which of your whys can be changed and how they can be changed. If you’re not enjoying the project you're working on, consider grabbing a meeting time with your supervisor. Communicate your experience with honesty and respect, and ask if there are other projects you can take on or other projects you can at least sit in on — you only miss out on opportunities you don’t ask for. It’s critical to actively search for practical solutions for change. Know that your supervisors are there to help and support you!
3.) Leverage Your Network
If all else fails, look outside your internship and tap into the rich network of professionals and peers around you. Though you may not be enjoying the type of work you are doing, the people around you may be people who can offer skills and knowledge that go beyond the workplace. Continue to keep your professionalism and respect, and invest in those around you with the intent to build long-term relationships instead of transactions. And who knows, these may also be the people you come back to for other opportunities and secondary connections!
Not everyone will have the “perfect” internship, and that’s okay. Whether your internship was exactly what you imagined or not, there is always an opportunity to see the glass as half full. Realizing that the work you’re doing is not something you enjoy is something learned, too. Regardless of which company, organization, or co-workers you’re with you can learn, grow, and build meaningful relationships.
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