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Career Advice

5 Internship Problems and What to Do When They Happen

By Krisha Maclang on July 7, 2015

For most of us, an internship is our first brush with the real world. It will probably be your first time to spend an entire day wearing a collared button-up top and a pair of sensible shoes. You imagine eagerly going to work 15 minutes early. You can’t wait to get in there and get a head start on your career.

And then you get there. Quickly, you realize your internship isn’t exactly what you expected it to be. Frankly, it’s kind of disappointing. Reality check, kid, you’re at the bottom of the corporate food chain.

You’re doing mindless work

Realistically speaking, you’re not going to be able to save the world in your first week. While you will (hopefully) be entrusted to do actual work, chances are you will be given a lot of clerical work as well. In case you didn’t know, the real world entails a lot of photocopying, paper filing and coffee fetching. It just so happens that some a good bit of that work will fall onto your desk.

Getting your hands on real work takes a lot of responsibility. As an intern, you haven’t proven yourself of being capable of handling the heavy stuff. You will have to deal with the grunt work as a rite of passage into being a bonafide employee.

What you can do: First try to do your best with the tasks given to you at work. You have to hustle and prove your worth then hopefully, your boss will trust you enough to give you meatier roles.

But if all you’re doing is clerical work and you’re not really doing anything valuable or educational, try to talk to your supervisor about it. You want to leave your internship with new insights and skills, so work with your boss on ensuring that you will do relevant work. Volunteer your help with some projects that your team is working on. You can propose to work on a solo project to cap off your internship experience.

Try to find value in the work that is presented in you and if it doesn’t work, create opportunities for yourself.

You’re not doing anything

It’s natural to have a lot of down time when you’re an intern. Sure, there is probably a lot of work to do around the office but it’s possible that it’s not work that an intern would be privy to. It could also be that your boss has a lot on his or her own plate and has completely overlooked your workload.  If there’s no work for you, try to create work for yourself.

What you can do: You can ask your boss if there are any projects that he or she is tackling that you can work on. Chances are there are some stagnant projects on your boss’ to-do list that you can start working on yourself. Or maybe you can ask other members of your team that need some help on their own projects.

Again, you can also propose projects that you can do on your own. These projects can showcase your capabilities so that your boss can trust you with bigger tasks too.

You’re not getting any guidance

As an intern, it’s likely that you don’t know anything at work. But you wouldn’t want to stay that way for the rest of your internship. By the end of your stay at the company, you should have picked up more than just a thing or two from your work experience, no matter how brief it was.

What you can do: If you haven’t done it yet, try to sit down and talk to your boss about having a training plan for the remainder of your internship. Or at least talk to him/her about the things you want to learn or achieve so that your boss also knows what to teach you and how to guide you. As your internship progresses, have check-in meetings so that you can both see if you are on track.

If you’re confused about how you should accomplish your tasks, always ask. Never be afraid to ask questions! Your boss probably thinks that you already know what to do and that his/her instructions were clear enough.  So let your boss know that you need additional guidance for your project. If you’re keen to know about your job performance, ask your boss about giving you evaluations. This will help you learn about your strengths and weaknesses as an employee.

Always make sure that you communicate with your boss and that you are both on the same page when it comes to your internship.

You get left out of meetings or work discussions

Being an intern, you’re kind of part of the company, but not really. You will work on things alongside other employees but there are simply some things that you won’t be a part of, such as meetings. Oftentimes, confidential matters are discussed at these meetings and you just don’t have the clearance to know these things. Aside from this, meetings are nebulous by nature and adding more people can further complicate them and drag them out longer.

What you can do: While they may not allow you to participate at meetings, you can ask to be a silent observer. Ask if you can come along to a few key meetings just to see how projects are formulated, strategized and implemented. Tell your boss that you just want to get a complete picture of how things work at an office environment.

However, make sure you don’t disrupt the proceedings and do what you told them you would do: observe.

Your internship stipend isn’t enough

This particular scenario doesn’t apply to everyone. Most internships these days are unpaid. Some interns are lucky enough to get compensation but it’s mostly because the workload is heavier than the usual internship or maybe the work entails a lot of expenses.

What you can do: Ideally, you should sort out stipend issues before the start of your internship. If you’re encountering unseen expenses such as transportation costs for running errands or buying materials for projects, you should talk to your boss about getting additional assistance to cover for the expenses.

If you don’t have a stipend but you find yourself shelling out your personal funds to cover work expenses, ask your boss for a reimbursement. There shouldn’t be a problem with reimbursing these expenses as long as you keep official receipts, so make sure to ask your boss or the finance department how the reimbursement process goes.

Your internship is one of the best ways you can prepare for life in the real world. It’s the closest you can get to an actual job without actually taking on the workload of a full-time employee. Make the most of what is given to you and if you encounter any of these internship problems, do what you can to turn these problems into opportunities. Good luck, intern!

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