You’ve landed what seems to be the perfect internship for the summer. You’ve done your homework, created a well-written professional resume and cover letter, and maintained a proactive approach in the internship process. It seemed that you had everything in place to complete a successful internship and you were very excited about getting started. The result?
What Went Wrong
You’ve landed an internship that seems too good to be true, doing what you love and gaining the experience you will need to get a full-time job in your field.
This is the scenario that many lucky students find themselves in as they prepare for their first day on the job; but within just a few weeks they begin feeling a little frustrated and perhaps like the internship they are currently doing doesn’t in the least resemble the one that was described awhile back when interviewing for the job. So, what went wrong?
Is It Really a Problem or Just a Misunderstanding
First off, welcome to the real world. As you make another one of life’s major transitions moving from college to the work world, there will be many situations where you will need to assess individual situations and find the best way to solve them.
At this point, you can’t rely on your parents or professors to help you solve the problem. If you happen to be the intern above, the first step is to assess the situation in order to come up with a viable solution. One thing for sure is that you are not the first intern experiencing this problem, so it’s important for you to stand back, see what’s actually going on, and then take action.
Here are some common challenges interns face during the first few weeks on the job:
Being Assigned to Do All of the Grunt Work
First of all, it’s important to remember that you must pay your dues as an intern in order to eventually get the full-time job of your dreams. Much comes out of learning about the organization, its people, its mission, and the clientele it serves and much of that learning takes place while doing the busy work that is part of the everyday work in most organizations.
But if you begin to feel that the busy work is getting out of hand and you are spending the majority of the day running errands or doing menial tasks, it’s time to take action.
Everyday busy work may seem unimportant but by changing your perspective by thinking of the people you can meet while making the coffee and hanging out as people come to fill their cup each morning. Much learning can also take place while filing important and some not-so-important papers to see the type of work that the organization is engaged in.
In addition, the work you are doing may not be considered busy work but may be important work that needs to be done, but that is just plain boring for anyone to do whether you are an intern or employee. Again this is where the intern will be expected to pay their dues prior to getting real assignments that seem more valuable to your learning and to the organization.
SOLUTION: Many employers today realize the value of their interns and the potential benefits of internships to both the employer and the student. For an internship to be really beneficial, both the student and the employer need to recognize that good internships don’t just happen, they need to be structured and reviewed to ensure they are meeting the needs of both the student and the employer.
As a student, internships can be invaluable to you once you engage in the job search process after graduation.
You Have Not Been Compensated for Your Work Based on the Terms Discussed
You may have been offered $15 per hour but notice you are only receiving $10 per hour in your weekly paycheck; or if your internship is unpaid but you were offered reimbursement for transportation or food in the amount of $75 per week but after 2 or 3 weeks you have still not received anything, then it’s time to decide what is the best way to handle this situation?
SOLUTION: This is definitely a very important challenge that needs to be overcome before it affects your attitude and the way you do your job.
You Are so Overwhelmed That You Are Not Able to Perform to the Best of Your Ability
It may be the fact that you are given too much work or that you feel inadequate and not trained to do the work assigned.
It’s important to realize that any internship or job provides a little bit of discomfort when getting started.
Many new interns or employees may describe their first days or even weeks as overwhelming and need the time to get comfortable and adjust to the people and the organization. But if this discomfort is persistent or is keeping you up at night, you will need to examine exactly what aspect of the position is the most challenging in order to solve the problem.
SOLUTION: Realizing that most everyone experiences overwhelm or a lack of confidence in almost any new situation, especially in an internship or a job, can often make the situation more tolerable and provide some insight that perhaps you are being a little too hard on yourself.
You Are Receiving Little to No Feedback From Your Supervisor
Regular evaluations are good for all employees, but especially for interns and entry-level candidates who have had little to no experience working in a specific career field. You may think that you are doing a good job, but you really have no idea since no one has told you that they value your work or that you did well on your last assignment. This is a big mistake many employers make and it’s hard to put interns in this position since they are often afraid to ask if their work has been up to par.
SOLUTION: It’s very hard for individuals to personally assess the quality of their work and identify what they can do to make their work better. It is especially hard for interns or employees just starting in a new career field to understand the expectations of the employer.
These are just a few of the most common challenges that interns face when starting an internship; and, as you can see, there are ways that you can successfully handle each challenge so that your internship is successful just as you hoped it would be when first accepting the internship. As you get closer to graduation, you will want to capitalize on your internship(s) as you successfully navigate the job search process.