Every school year, students at Ohio State are actively applying for summer internships, in hopes of boosting their resume as much as possible. Going through countless interviews and application processes is stressful and tiring, but rewarding when you get that offer from the company you have been dying to work with and learn from. Most times, these opportunities are fantastic and students are able to apply everything they’ve learned and are even able to gain new skills. But, there are times where those dream internships don’t fulfill a student’s expectations, and fall short of what they seemed, creating a negative experience. I am one of those students.
This summer I studied abroad and interned in Sydney, Australia. Before I left on my 7-week excursion, I was lucky enough to find out that I had been placed at the number one global PR firm in the world. As you can imagine, I was ecstatic and so eager to learn new things from this company. Once I got to Australia and arrived on my first day, I quickly found out that this internship was not going to be what I had hoped it would be. Within the first 8 hours, I was t
he classic intern you see in movies. My tasks included running around the city getting coffee for the other workers, picking up random items, and believe it or not, purchasing a salon gift card for someone’s birthday. While I was occasionally assigned “real work”, and did learn a handful of skills, my everyday was typically me running errands and not learning much at all in regard to my field. This is a tough situation to handle, especially because in a year’s time, I would be in a full-time job position and wanted to be able to bring my assets to the table. But there are ways to make the most of the situation, and teach yourself your own lessons along the way. Here’s how I managed my “bad” internship, and how you can too:
Tip #1: Don’t expect anything. Creating high expectations makes downfalls even harder.
Often times we overshoot reality, especially when it comes to our success. In my case, I felt like I worked so hard for the opportunity, and that I deserved to have a good experience. I still think it’s okay for me to feel that way, because I did work hard. But it was very hard for me to realize that people don’t actually owe you anything, or a certain experience, especially if they don’t know you. Because I had such an elevated perception of what my internship was going to be like, it made it much more difficult when it wasn’t what I thought.
Tip #2: Make the best of every task. Ask yourself, what can I learn from this, even if it’s not the work I had in mind?
As mentioned, I was not doing the work that I wanted to do and was being assigned punitive tasks with not much relevancy to my field. However, this didn’t mean I didn’t do them well. I tried to look at every task as an opportunity. If I was told to go buy groceries for an event or for the office break room (yes, this happened), I tried to do it in the best way possible and I would aim to look at the bright side of it. For example, getting said groceries taught me about Australian food culture, allowed me to explore the city, and I was able to put my organizational skills to the test. Having this perspective will transform any task.
Tip #3: Always show respect, regardless of your personal feelings – but hold your ground.
Navigating the workplace culture can be a difficult and stressful task. A universal culture in any profession however, is and should always be: respect. No matter how frustrated you may be at a supervisor or with your job, fighting it will do nothing for the situation. There were many occasions in which I did not want to be my composed and polite self. But in the end, you want the letter of recommendation and experience on your resume, so sometimes not voicing your concerns is worth it. That being said, it’s equally as important to speak up when things have gone too far. I also had my own experience with this. As long as the confrontation is done in a mature, and non-accusatory way, often times it will improve things and help you stand out. You have a voice to use, even as an intern.
Tip #4: Don’t let it discourage you.
I will be the first to admit that having a poor internship or work experience is a huge mental and physical setback. It’s hard to tell yourself that it’s okay, and pick yourself back up from it. But bouncing back from it is the most important part. Being able to tell myself that I pushed through and added another accolade to my resume, even if it wasn’t very fun along the way, gave me even more confidence to crush a new internship. I already endured a bad one, so it had to get better from there. Completing any internship is only half the battle, your mentality towards it is what is going to make a difference.
About the author: I am a Senior at OSU majoring in Strategic Communications, and minoring in International Relations & Diplomacy. I am originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which is where I hope to find a post-grad job in the Public Relations and Communications field. I’ve had various internships in my field, both at non-profit organizations, start-up businesses, and top-tier global firms. I have been a part of the PRactice and PRSSA for two semesters and am currently and Account Supervisor. Outside of school, I love to run, be outdoors, discover new music, and travel!