Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Why “Bad” Internships Aren’t All That Bad

This blog post was written by Peer Career Ambassador, Ji Hwan Kim ’18

Imagine working hard all school year to get that dream internship. You’ve gotten good grades to boost your GPA, gone to numerous CCD events, reviewed your resume a thousand times, and had your friend help with mock interviews. Now that you’ve arrived for your first day of work, you’re excited to see what your dream internship entails—until you see what it actually entails. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t match expectations as the job is nothing like what you expect it to be. Rather than leading those interesting projects you heard all about during the interview process, you’re left doing menial and tedious chores for other team members. Believe it or not, there are a couple things you can do if you find yourself in a situation like this.

Accept that you dislike the internship

Often times, people are reluctant to acknowledge that they dislike something they’ve worked very hard to attain. The same applies for internships and jobs; who would be happy about admitting that the internship that they worked all year for is not necessarily working out? No matter how hard it may be, it is important that you acknowledge your dislike for the position as soon as you recognize it. You don’t need to tell anyone; however, knowing that you don’t like something is the first step in finding out why you don’t like it. Without accepting this, you cannot progress. Furthermore, the beauty of internships is in their transience—they come… and they go. Even if you’re convinced that your disdain for the internship is justified, the internship will eventually end and life will go on. Accepting this fact will allow you to start devising an action plan for how to get over this slight career hurdle.

Figure out why you don’t like the internship

Not all “bad” internships are created equal; therefore, it is critical for your development to analyze why you don’t like the internship. Your dislike for the internship could spur from multiple reasons: Do you dislike your supervisor or the people you actively work with?; Do you dislike the assignments that are given to you?; Do you feel as though you are not being valued by the company or team?; Do you feel that your work goes against your personal morals or beliefs? Whatever the reason may be, it is important to identify the problem so you can develop the correct remedy.

How to remedy the situation

Bad boss/team: If you dislike the position because you can’t seem to get along with the people you are working with, there are a couple things you can do. First and foremost, if the discomfort is caused by inappropriate or illegal behaviors (i.e. sexual misconduct, breaking company policies, etc.), it is crucial that you immediately report these to the company’s Human Resources department. Problems such as these are beyond your control and must be dealt with by the proper resources. However, if the issue is minor (such as personality incompatibility), then you can look to remedy these problems by getting to know your team members better. Part of life is learning how to work with different personalities and leadership styles and this is a great way to develop your ability to flex your style to maximize your efficiency on the team. Furthermore, you should be able to distinguish your dislike for a person versus your dislike for an authority figure (aka “boss”). If you are just uncomfortable at the idea of having a boss supervise and monitor your work, you must understand that part of working for a company is losing some autonomy over the people with which you work and the assignments you handle. If this is not something you can work with, you should look at opportunities with low supervision or no authority figures.

Bad assignments: There are three main reasons why you may dislike the assignments given to you: being assigned tedious and menial tasks, being assigned tasks that don’t align with your professional interests and skills, and not being assigned to enough projects. Whenever you encounter this situation, the first thing you should do is continue to work hard on the projects you have already been assigned. As an intern, you are brought on by the team to act as support and learn as much as you can about the job. Part of this process is having to deal with assignments that may not seem as glamorous or complex as the work assigned to more senior members of the team. By working hard and completing your assignments on time (regardless of how much you hate the tasks), you can establish trust and build up your reputation as a reliable team member. After doing this, you can have a conversation with your supervisor about participating in some of the more interesting tasks. Even though you are still an intern, the company hired you because they saw qualities they liked in you and should be willing to work with you to better your experience—as long as you are consistently working hard to put your best foot forward.

Never Quit

Regardless of how much you hate the internship, quitting should be your very last option. Keep in mind that your ability to obtain future internships or jobs may depend on the experience you are currently involved in. Don’t jeopardize your professional reputation and an opportunity to gain valuable experience because you can’t handle a little discomfort. On the other hand, if you feel as though the internship is detracting from your sense of self and motivation or making you uncomfortable due to illegal or inappropriate behaviors, you should consult the Human Resources team to explore possible exit or transfer options.

Moving on from a “bad” internship

When you come across a “bad” internship, keep in mind that you are not alone. A Gallup Poll conducted in 2014 showed that about 68% of Americans felt “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at their jobs. In essence, this means that over two-thirds of Americans are not fully satisfied with their current jobs! The great news for you is that you are only involved in an internship; meaning the experience will eventually come to an end and you are not necessarily obligated to return to the company if you decide not to. Furthermore, you can walk away from a “bad” experience having learned what you don’t like; which is just as important as finding out the things you do like. In addition, the technical and relational skills you learn from any internship experience will prove invaluable in future endeavors. Consider yourself fortunate for being able to figure out what you didn’t like before you started your full-time professional career! As Oprah says: “No experience is ever wasted… Everything in life is happening to grow you up, to fill you up, to help you to become more of who you were created to be.”

And lastly, don’t forget that things can improve. If you are currently in a “bad” internship, be sure to use these strategies to make your experience better. At the end of the day, you take on an internship to learn and develop professionally; therefore, if neither are happening, take control of the situation and take the appropriate actions.