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5 Signs Your Internship Might Be a Waste of Time And How to Fix It
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Internships are an important stepping-stone to a successful career. Spending a few months working for an established company allows you to learn the ropes and apply what youve been learning in the classroom to a real world setting.
In a best-case scenario, you work on exciting projects under the supervision of industry leaders. Worst case? You become intimately familiar with the photocopier and the executive teams coffee preferences.
In the face of criticism from universities and disgruntled students, many companies have started developing more relevant programs to give interns a chance to immerse themselves in projects and learn by doing. This is especially important in fields like public health, where hands-on experience is vital to success and required by many programs. However, not all internships are created equal, and even prestigious internships can wind up being a waste of your time, energy, and talent.
Obviously, if you spend every day making copies and stuffing envelopes, and have no opportunity to attend meetings, contribute ideas, or shadow others, your internship is going to feel like a waste of time. There are other signs, though, that the experience might not be providing the education youre hoping (and paying) for and that you need to make changes.
1. No One Knows Who You Are
Internships are an important part of building professional networks. Internship supervisors and co-workers can serve as professional references and contacts. But if youre stuck in a cubicle in a back corner and never get to meet anyone, building your network is going to be difficult.
Make an effort to meet people, and ask your supervisor for more opportunities to network. And show up. Just because youre an intern, doesnt mean you shouldnt go to the company picnic, or cheer on the department softball team. Make yourself visible, even if your supervisor doesnt.
2. Youre Working With the Odd Man Out
When you first start working at any company, it takes time to understand the office politics and alliances. However, it usually doesnt take long to see who is politically and socially isolated within the organization; just listening to how others talk and looking at how work is assigned can provide some important clues.
Ideally, youll be able to work with those who have the greatest amount of knowledge and insight into your industry, as they can serve as valuable mentors and contacts later on. If you find yourself isolated, seek ways to connect with others and build your reputation.
3. You Dont Have Any Supervision
If you feel like youve been left to your own devices, you probably arent getting as much as possible from the experience. The fact is, some managers accept or are assigned interns even if they arent prepared for them or have any idea what to do with them.
The result is boredom and interns feeling like theyd be better off doing something else. If you feel like you dont have enough supervision, talk with your supervisor. Unless you speak up, they may not know and if no one is available to offer more supervision, you may be able to work in a different area, or be able to find a different opportunity.
4. You Arent Learning Anything
Companies are often unsure of how much an intern knows until he or she begins work, and arent sure how to train interns. Some companies assume that interns are already prepared, and dont feel the need (or have the resources) to provide in-depth training.
However, internships are for learning new skills, so if weeks or months go by and youve done nothing but clean out filing cabinets or make copies, its time for a conversation with your manager. Thats not to say you shouldnt expect a certain amount of grunt work, but if thats all you do, youre wasting your time and talent.
5. Theres No Reason to Try Your Best
Despite what Hollywood might try to tell you about internships, they should be treated as actual jobs. Yet if you dont have a purpose quantifiable, achievable goals that mater to you and the company where is the incentive to actually do that? If your internship feels like youre just marking time to earn credits, and there is no incentive to do a good job, then you are wasting your time.
Try meeting with your manager or advisor to develop a strategy for your internship and establish goals, so you have a reason to try and youll consider the experience valuable
The key to a successful internship is communication. When youre open and honest about your experiences, your expectations, and problems, youll have a more successful internship experience and the companies you work with will have a great intern.