Everyone knows that I'm the "go-to" when the word internship is mentioned. I do my best to answer emails, take phone calls, and make sure that students looking for internship advice get it. A few weeks ago, I received a call from a family friend who is currently interning with a well known sports team. We'll call her, Sarah, for this blog's sake. Sarah got her dream internship and was so excited to get started. Sarah met with her department supervisor and was told about all of the different tasks that she would be assigned. The supervisor told Sarah that she would work with her a few days per week to make sure that Sarah got the most out of the internship. It was decided that Sarah's hours would be Monday - Thursday from 9AM - 4PM. At this specific company, interns are lead by each department , so Sarah knew she'd be spending lots of time with her boss.
This all sounds fine and dandy so far - right?
Unfortunately, Sarah went from being ecstatic so start the job to I quote, "hating going to work each day because I feel so useless". We all know what it's like to walk into an office job every day that we hate - it's not a good feeling. But remember, Sarah is an intern. Is it different?
Sarah told me that she goes to work each day and she sits at a table and does nothing. Sarah says that her boss pays no attention to her and tells her that she is too busy to give her any work to do. It has been 4 weeks and no work has come along. Sarah has spoken to her boss repeatedly about the issue and her boss keeps saying that maybe things will change and providing Sarah with very vague answers.
This situation is frustrating to hear about. Internship coordinators and employers are typically busy and often do not give interns the time of day. However, for this to happen over 4 weeks, is unacceptable. You should not bring interns on if you don't have the time to give them work or delegate the task of "intern supervisor" to someone else in your office. In this case, here is the advice I gave Sarah:
First of all, do not take any drastic measures at this point. Steps 1 and 2 are below:
Have one more meeting with your boss. Be as formal as possible. Do not threaten to quit the internship. Do not mention leaving the internship. Ask your boss for advice. Tell her that you are really excited about this opportunity but feel that you haven't been given anything to do over a significant period of time. Ask if there are opportunities for you to meet with other internship departments and help them out a few times per week. Tell her that you want to help the company out as much as possible and you don't mind what department you are in. Afterall, the goal is to leave the company a well-rounded and knowledgeable individual. Ask your boss if you could work on a research project and that way you can occupy your time with that each day. Tell her that you want to help her out in any way you can. Make sure that your boss understands your motive is to help. You can also suggest lowering the amount of hours you intern each week so that your boss doesn't feel pressure to constantly provide you with work.
If this meeting doesn't change anything, schedule a meeting with the HR director or internship supervisor at the company. Don't speak poorly about your direct boss. Tell the HR person that you want to learn as much as you can and you are willing to help out in any other department. Always ask for advice. Ask the HR person what she suggests that you do to make the best of the situation.
Remember, if you really want this company on your resume, don't quit the internship. Give yourself a project to do. Help the company grow their social media network, memorize all of the executives at the company and see if any went to your school, keep yourself busy.