What To Do When Your Internship Goes Wrong

Tue, Sep 7, 2010

Internship Information

Not all internships turn out to be what you thought they would. This may happen more frequently when the internship you take is halfway across the country and your friends and family are a thousand miles away, adding homesickness to the list. But if the internship you are stuck with turns out to be something from a horror movie and you don’t think you’ll be able to make it the entire term, there are ways around it without burning bridges.

 What to do when…

1.      Your internship doesn’t turn out to what you thought it would be and you have to quit:

It’s going to be difficult, for sure, but you have to make an appointment with your supervisor and let him/her know what is going on. Start off with, “Thank you for the opportunity, but this isn’t going to work out for me…” Most importantly, express your gratitude for getting the internship in the first place and stress that honestly, it’s you and not the job. If you can compliment the organization, but state that the internship just isn’t for you, you’ll reduce the risk of burning a bridge you might need later.

2.      You don’t know what to do on your first day and you’re not getting much direction:

Speak up. Your first day in the office or out in the field is bound to be full of new things and frankly, very intimidating. But if you don’t assert yourself now, it will be difficult to do later. Jump in the game, ask questions and don’t give up until you get the answers you need to do your job properly. 

3.      You won’t be able to complete an assignment you’ve been given:

Be honest and let your supervisor know as soon as possible. If you’re having problems making a contact with someone or you simply won’t be able to accomplish the project on time, it’s important to give the higher-ups a warning so they can be prepared. Although avoiding it because you’re nervous seems like a good idea, in the long-run, it is not, so boost your confidence and break the bad news early.

4.      You absolutely hate your internship:

First, acknowledge that it’s okay to hate your internship, but that it doesn’t mean you should automatically quit. One important thing to learn in life is that you may have to work certain jobs you don’t particularly like for short periods of time. Part of sticking around at a place you may not absolutely, 100 percent enjoy, will be at the end of the internship, when you feel good you stuck it out, even if conditions weren’t excellent. Second, making a list of pros and cons may be helpful to evaluate whether or not your thoughts about disliking the job are justified. Finally, talk to someone else about it. Sometimes, just venting and having someone else to talk to about work problems can go a long way to keeping your motivation up and keeping you on track for the duration of your assignment.

 By Kelly McLendon. Kelly is studying Environmental Policy and Journalism. She can be reached at mclendon.kelly@gmail.com.

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