For current college students and recent graduates alike, the internship is paramount to your work experience and eventually finding a full-time job. You’ve heard so many different stories about internships from professors, family friends and your own friends. If you are like me, I pictured an internship as being a gopher running around completing errands that were too mindless for the actual employees to complete. First off, if this is the kind of internship you have right now, put the coffee pot down and run. An internship is an opportunity for you to gain experience, not be a gopher. Although, there are a few things you can learn from being a gopher as well. Which leads me to the topic of this article: What do you do if you absolutely hate your internship?
First off, the word hate is so very strong, isn’t it? While it’s not OK to hate anything, hating your job or internship is slightly more acceptable. So, for the first piece of advice on hating your internship: Don’t Just Quit
It may seem like this is the worst internship ever, but remember this is a learning experience. Plus, most internships are on a temporary basis, so you won’t even be there for very long anyways. Just up and quitting your internship can really work against you. First off, this is likely your first gig. It’s not the best idea to start off in your field as a quitter. On top of that, you don’t know (or perhaps you do) how influential this company is in your industry or what kind of connections they have. If you just up and quit, it could really haunt you for some time in your career. That’s why it’s best to swallow your pride and just ride it out.
Remember that an internship is a chance for you to learn. That includes learning and knowing what you don’t want in a company or job. If you never experience a terrible internship or job, then how will you develop an idea of what you don’t want in a job? Take note of what it is that you dislike (not hate) in this internship and what you would like to have instead. Is it the work environment that you dislike? Is it the nature of the job? Is it the work? All of these things can really help you decipher what it is you want in your career. Perhaps you are going to school for journalism. You’re a sophomore or a junior and you are just starting to take classes that are focused on this industry and craft. If you are ambitious you may have scoped out an internship at your local newspaper. Likely it’s not writing articles for the publication, but perhaps you’re fact checking or keeping things organized for a reporter. While working as an intern there, you will get a feel for what goes on in a news outlet. You may absolutely love it and decide that this is what you want to work towards. On the other hand, you may absolutely hate it and realize that a different outlet, or maybe even a different major altogether, is what you need. These are all good things and they came from this internship- even if it was terrible and you disliked it. Take hold of the opportunity to always learn from what you are doing.
Talk to Your Superior
If you really dislike this position, then talk to your supervisor or manager. Maybe this is a new internship they started and they’re trying to figure out the role as well. If you are just unhappy with the position and never say anything, then how does that help either of you? Of course, you have to be careful here. You can’t just say, “I really dislike this internship and the work I’m doing. What can I do?” That’s a fast track to the exit door and a negative mark on your record. If it’s the nature of the job, ask if there is another department you could aid instead. Discuss some of the things you thought you would be doing and perhaps talk about how you can start doing them. In the office, communication is key. If you say absolutely nothing, then absolutely nothing will change.
Be Better Prepared Next Time
Since you now know that this internship is not what you want, you can better prepare yourself for the next one. When you are ready for another internship, take your time in your job search. Look for things you want and take note of the things you don’t want. If you are unsure of where to go, then talking to a career adviser at your school is a good idea. Remember when Chris told us about how valuable they are? Take note and make sure you take advantage of their services. They can be really beneficial to you and your career.
After all is said and done, if this internship is really terrible, and I mean terrible, then perhaps it is best if you leave. Of course, you are the only one that can be the judge of that, but examples of internships that are terrible enough to leave include: a superior that degrades you; a superior that harasses you or makes you feel uncomfortable; an internship where you literally learn nothing and are a gopher for the employees; a position where you are getting exploited, meaning you are doing tons of work as if you were an employee but receiving no pay. This last one is tricky, though. If you are learning a lot and are getting valuable experience with a noted company, this doesn’t apply to you. I make a note of this though because some companies have started to take advantage of interns. They see them as cheap labor and will pay them half as much as an employee that would be doing the same work. This isn’t right and you shouldn’t be exploited like this.
If you do leave, make sure you quit your internship gracefully. Remember, you are just getting started and you wouldn’t want to tarnish your career or start off with a blemish. People talk and companies talk even more. When you’re ready for a new internship, use Spark Hire to search and interview online to find your dream position.
IMAGE: Courtesy of Her Campus