I just got off the phone with an amazing intern at company in California. She likes her internship but feels like her internship coordinator is always "too busy" for her. She wants to make the most of the opportunity (a true Intern Queen!) but doesn't know how to gently ask for more tasks. I wanted to share the tips I gave her:
1. Give it Two Weeks. Summer internships just started both for the students and for the employers. Just as there is a transition involved with the students, there is also a transition period with the employer. The internship coordinator might have another position or title and might not be used to assigning someone else projects or managing the program while managing his or her own workload. Try to relax for two weeks, absorb what you can, and at the two week mark -- reevaluate.
2. Ask For Ongoing Projects. I always give my interns (for Internqueen.com) a list of "ongoing projects". This way, if I'm having a slow day or a super busy day and can't assign the interns tasks, they always have a list of ongoing projects to work on. These are typically research-based projects that just need to be completed by the end of the internship. This also prevents a lot of back and forth when the students have completed their tasks for the day. (They know what they need to work on.)
3. Find Out Who Else You Should Meet in the Office. If your direct supervisor doesn't have any tasks for you at the moment, perhaps someone else in the office does. And after all, meeting a ton of different people at your internship is a GREAT thing! Ask your internship coordinator if he or she can recommend 3-5 other executives in the office that you should introduce yourself to. Also, make sure to ask if you should email them or just poke your head inside their office. You can make a habit of routinely checking in with these people to see if they need help. This is a great way to gain experience -- and network!