Students take internships for a variety of different reasons. Usually you’re looking to gain work experience, network with (you hope!) your future colleagues and maybe make a little money on the side (again, fingers crossed.)
What happens though, when internships feel like they’re taking more than they’re giving? If your internship has you feeling like you’re just going through the motions and/or under-worked given the time that you’re putting in, then read on.
Overcoming Internship Challenges
A full three-fourths of college students enrolled in four-year programs are taking on at least one internship to bolster their resumes and apply their classroom knowledge outside of academia.
Internships allow you to network, corral future references, and increase your chances of being offered a job after graduation.
So, what’s the catch? While you can definitely expect to reap all or most of the benefits mentioned up top, there are a few challenges that interns occasionally have to stare down and overcome.
Challenge: Getting Enough Work
Forbes recently reported that a college internship might be the most surefire way of getting a job after graduation. Not only that – nearly 70% of companies with 100 or more regular staff offered their interns full-time employment post-graduation.
Make sure that you’re getting enough work to make your internship work for you. One common problem that interns face is not getting the hands-on work experience and opportunity to apply knowledge gleaned in the classroom in the real world.
If you finish the day’s work before the lunch bell, so to speak, you are completely entitled to (tactfully) ask for more meaningful work from your supervisor.
Challenge: Lack of Direction
What’s the real culprit behind too little work and too much Instagram-perusing free time on your hands?
Sometimes it’s that you finish your work too quickly while other interns struggle with wading through a mountain of busy work before getting to the tasks that will come in handy in the working world. It could also be a lack of direction from your supervisor.
Asking your employer for more challenging work (translation: less busy work) scheduled ahead of time might pan out in your favor and show your employer that you’re serious about taking the initiative.
If there’s some work within the department that you’d rather be doing, express that to your supervisor or chat it up over lunch with an employee where you’re interning to find out more.
Challenge: More Feedback Needed
You’re in this internship to gain experience and apply your knowledge. Let’s not forget though, that internships are also about contributing real value to the company that you’re working for.
When you finish your work too early or get mixed signals (or no signal at all!) from your supervisor on what to work on next, it’s time to ask for help.
Talk to your supervisor if you’re unsure what to do next. Ask questions at meetings and don’t be afraid to set up weekly sessions with an on-site mentor.
Supervisors can take it for granted that you might not have a firm handle on every aspect of the company; having said that, they’re often more than happy to lend a helping hand.
Communication Is Huge
Getting solid feedback is predicated on good communication – on your part and your supervisor’s.
To sidestep the challenges mentioned above before they develop, it’s important that you convey what you hope to get out of the internship and the kinds of work that you can expect week-in, week-out from your supervisor.
Laying the groundwork this way can put you on the path to your dream internship experience.