Stuck in a rotten internship? Don’t make any rash decisions. Keep your reputation and read this article.
You’re probably expecting an awesome internship experience this spring. Maybe you’ll gain access to executives and perks and receive an amazing educational experience. But if recent internship news is anything to go by, it may not end up being the experience you were expecting.
More than 30 lawsuits have been filed by former interns. The lawsuits range from discrimination to failing to receive compensation for work. While it’s tough to gauge if these internship programs were bad, the interns certainly didn’t get what they were looking for.
How can you tell whether your internship is good or bad? Here’s a checklist of questions you should ask yourself in the interview phase and throughout the program:
- Does the internship provide you with real work opportunities?
- Does the internship give you access to executives, mentorships and professional development?
- Does your employer treat you as a member of the team?
- Do the day-to-day responsibilities reflect your area of expertise?
- Can you interact with additional members of your team without issue?
- Does your employer offer competitive compensation, room for advancement or skills training?
If you answered “no” to the majority of these questions, you may be in a bad internship. But you can take steps to get out of it without losing your cool or your reputation. Though you should always research any internship before accepting, take the following steps if you’re in over your head:
Address problems as they happen
It’s never OK to face discrimination or be given work that isn’t meaningful. But it’s far too common to ignore smaller issues and let them build up.
Let’s say you’re continuously given grunt work, such as running errands or getting coffee for the team. Once in a while, that’s acceptable. But if it’s your main job, not only are you not receiving any valuable experience from the internship, but if you’re not being paid, you may have a case on your hands.
Talk to your supervisor. You want to have a good relationship with your boss, even if things end. Tell him or her that while you appreciate the opportunity, you don’t feel like you’re getting what you were promised and would like to discuss changing your duties.
If they object or aren’t agreeable to more educational tasks, it opens the door to another conversation about finding opportunities elsewhere.
Seek alternative opportunities within the organization
If your interests have changed or your feelings about your role have shifted, look at other opportunities within the organization. Moving horizontally is easier once you’re employed by the company, and working in different departments isn’t uncommon. If that isn’t an option, evaluate how you can use your transferrable skills to work on different side projects.
If you have a digital marketing internship, but enjoy the creative side of the industry, see if you can use your design skills to help out the advertising department. That way, you’ll be able to do what you love while avoiding any broken ties with the organization.
Don’t burn bridges
Saying sayonara in a blaze of glory may seem appealing at first, but it’s not the best course of action. It’s never a good idea to burn bridges with your internship employer, even if you’ve had a terrible experience.
Think of it this way: People typically remember those key moments, good and bad, during their professional experiences. Even if you did great work, your employer may only remember you for that viral video, evil letter or nasty Facebook post.
If leaving your internship is your only option, do it gracefully. Thank your employer for the opportunity and communicate your desire to find work that more closely fits your needs. You can even ask them to contact you if they need anything in the future.
It’s better to take the high road and have your employer remember you as a solid professional. You never know when you’ll cross paths again. (Click here to tweet this thought.)
Bad internships are an unfortunate thing too many young professionals face. But if you take the necessary steps before and during your time in the position, your experience may turn out to be better than you imagined.
What do you think? What are some other ways to get out of a bad experience without losing your cool?
Ashley Mosley is the Community Engagement Manager of InternMatch, an online platform connecting the best intern candidates and employers. Connect with Ashley and InternMatch on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.