If you’re an intern, then you know that internships can be both incredibly rewarding and incredibly frustrating at the same time. Many interns find themselves in toxic internships situations, whether it’s not receiving the proper training, being asked to do work outside their job description, or having to work with incompetent colleagues, to name just a few examples.
As an intern, it’s easy to feel depressed in these situations, but with the right attitude and approach, you can survive a bad internship without giving up on your dream career forever.
Table of Contents
- What Are The Signs Of Bad Internships?
- Before you start, have a plan
- Know your worth
- Ask questions
- Avoid office politics
- Stay positive
- Surround yourself with good people
- Find a Mentor
- Speak to Your Supervisor
- Remember the Time Frame
- Remember you’re valuable
What Are The Signs Of Bad Internships?
With more and more companies adding interns to their staff every year, the rise of lower-quality internship experiences is an unfortunate inevitability. Many students partake in internships to immerse themselves in the world they want to work in and gain hands-on experience outside of what was covered in their schooling – but many times these students find themselves undervalued, mismanaged, and uncompensated. The long-term effects of having inadequate internship programs will prove detrimental for both employers and students alike. You need to rethink your internship program if you see any of these 10 warning signs:
- Lack Of Fun Culture.
- Your Personal Time Ruined.
- No Meaningful Projects.
- No Perks.
- Lack Of Training Opportunities.
- Lack Of Supervision.
- No Game Plans.
- Lack Of Networking.
- No Conductive Surveys.
- Finally, No Compensations.
Does this sound familiar? Can you relate to the fact that you’re depressed about your internship program? Here are some dos and don’ts to help you cope with a toxic internship.
Before you start, have a plan
Before you take an internship, you should have your eyes open for warning signs. Is it something you can do remotely? Does it pay well? Is there room for growth and advancement? If all those things are possible, then yes, go ahead and take that internship. But if they’re not, don’t go down that path. It doesn’t matter how fun or cool your supervisor might be; if they won’t give you real work, they’re just wasting your time. You want to build up your resume with experiences that make you look good—not ones that make you look bad. And keep in mind: some internships are so awful they could actually put your career in jeopardy!
Know your worth
It may be tempting to take any internship in your field, especially since internships have become more and more sought after as traditional entry-level jobs continue to disappear. However, internships are not charity cases. A good internship should offer you valuable on-the-job experience that you can’t get from just reading about it in a book or listening in class. You’re trading your time for education and potentially career contacts or job opportunities down the road. If an internship doesn’t sound like it will be of value, don’t stick around; move on instead. It’s always better to find something that’s right for you than stick with something that isn’t going anywhere.
Asking questions is one of those things that is rarely encouraged in internships. Often times, interns are told to keep their head down and just do what they’re told. But if you want to survive a bad internship and learn more, ask questions! Keep in mind that not every question should be answered, but an open dialogue with your supervisor will help you learn even more. For example, asking how your performance can be measured or ways you can use your skills in your current position will lead you towards some answers of your own. Also, letting them know why certain tasks are more tedious than others may end up saving everyone time in the long run.
Avoid office politics
In most cases, office politics is simply that: politics. If you see an opportunity for power grabs or backstabbing or jealousy, try to avoid getting involved. You might save yourself some strife and learn how to survive a bad internship if you let others fight their own battles. Rather than taking sides on petty disputes, stay above it all and focus on achieving your own goals—or just continue working well on your specific project at hand. If things do take a turn for the worse, make sure you don’t get pulled down with them; find ways around office drama by doing your best work in relative silence while making friends with those who can make life easier for you.
It’s easy to focus on all of your internship’s bad aspects—cramped workspace, rotten boss, and back-breaking work. But try not to spend too much time thinking about them. No matter how awful your internship is, it will only be that way for so long. There are strategies you can employ now that will help make it easier later. For example, if you have a hard time getting along with your mentor or fellow interns, go ahead and start networking with them; there’s no point in turning off those connections if you plan on keeping those people in mind for employment down the road. Just remember: Don’t burn bridges!
Surround yourself with good people
It’s often said that you are, in part, defined by those around you. If there are people in your life who don’t support you and your goals—friends or co-workers—it might be time to reevaluate who those people are. Surround yourself with good friends and professional contacts who believe in your abilities and want to see you succeed. Make it a priority to only spend time with supportive people.
Find a Mentor
No matter how bad an internship is, you can find someone who has survived one just as bad. Talk to that person about their experience and see what they did right. There’s always something you can learn. Don’t be afraid to ask other interns, either; maybe they had an awful experience but learned how not do things wrong next time. Take notes when you meet people or speak with them on social media – sometimes finding your mentor will come down to asking How do I avoid doing X? Or even, How do I know if I should quit my internship? Use these tips in conjunction with others on our list, and you’ll survive that internship in no time at all!
Speak to Your Supervisor
In some cases, your bad internship could be salvageable. Before you pull out all of your hair in frustration, try sitting down with your supervisor and explaining how you think things are going. You might be pleasantly surprised by what happens next: Maybe she’ll take on more responsibility for overseeing projects or find ways to adjust your schedule so that you have more time for your own tasks. If nothing else, it’s a way of letting her know that you’re unhappy, and people will usually go out of their way to help someone who’s willing-to-be-helpful.
Remember the Time Frame
It’s tempting to get stuck on just one internship for an extended period of time, but remember that your career is a marathon. While there’s no set time limit for internships, keep in mind that your best opportunities could be on the horizon. You never know the bad internship you have now could lead to great things down the road. Get through it and move on with grace, so you can land something better in no time!
Remember you’re valuable
When you’re stuck in a rut and not learning new skills, it can be easy to question your value. After all, one of an intern’s biggest responsibilities is learning. It helps to remember that you are still valuable even if it feels like you aren’t learning anything new at work. As an intern, you can always bring value—even if it isn’t necessarily related to what your job title may indicate. Everyone needs help with something, so think about how you can make yourself indispensable by offering tangible solutions and solutions-based ideas (especially if your boss asks for them). You might find that standing out isn’t as hard as it seems. Also, keep in mind that everyone starts somewhere and there’s no shame in being a beginner. The more humble you are, the better off you’ll be because it will allow others to trust your judgment more easily. And let’s face it: humility is sexy!