Dissatisfied With Your Internship? 9 Ways to Make It Work

Counting down the days until you are free from the vice-like grip of your job or internship? Dissatisfied with the work you are being asked to do? Wishing time would pass faster? We’ve all been there, and it really is no way to spend your time. Instead of using your energy being dissatisfied with your internship, use that energy to figure out how to make your internship work. Here are some tips to make the most of your internship when you are feeling frustrated with it:

1. Grab Lunch with People in Other Areas of the Company

If you are working in a certain division of a company, talk to people who work in other divisions. For example, if you work in the script reading division of a film production company, ask people in the marketing, finance, Human Resources, talent, and production divisions to go to lunch. You can walk up to someone or send a quick email introducing yourself. Be grateful for the time people give you, and meet with the intent of learning more about how those people got to where they are in their careers. This is a great way to network internally at your internship and to make the most of your time there. Even if you aren’t dissatisfied with your internship (or job), this is a smart way to meet more people and gain insight.

2. Focus on the Good and Write Down Positive Things That Are Happening

When you are frustrated, it’s easy to get pulled into a negativity spiral. Step back from your disappointment that the internship isn’t what you thought it would be, and instead focus on the things that are going well. Did you make a new friend? Did you deliver a project before the deadline? Was it a nice sunny walk to work? Pay attention to the little positive things, and you’ll see when you write them down that things might not be so bad after all. You might also try starting a gratitude journal for this same purpose.

3. Ask Your Boss for More (or Different) Responsibilities

Do you think your workload could be heavier? Too much free time? Maybe you see something that would be interesting to try? Once you determine whether you need more responsibilities, or maybe just a different project on your plate, approach your boss with a game plan. Have a clear “ask” and know what you want to say. If you approach your boss with an open-ended loose idea, he or she might think you aren’t serious or ready for more responsibilities. Ask for something specific and explain why you are feeling this way and how you would accomplish the tasks. If your boss approves, you now have a new exciting project to add to the original tasks that weren’t satisfying you. Even though you still have to get the other work done, your new tasks will help you break up the day and test new skills.

4. Be Honest with Your Boss About Expectations and Reality

If you are truly frustrated with the way things are happening in your internship or you feel like the job you applied for isn’t quite what you are being assigned, talk to your boss about it. Your time is precious and you should be making the most of it. While it’s important to pay your dues, you shouldn’t be spending every day for three months cleaning walls and getting coffee for people. You need to be learning and challenging yourself.

5. Take Initiative (While Also Getting Your Work Done)

If you see something around the office that needs to get done, be a self-starter and offer to do it without anyone having to ask. Be sure to get your main duties finished first, but then once those are completed, you have a project where you can shine and show initiative. This is a great way to be a rockstar at your internship even when you might feel dissatisfied with it.

6. Make Friends

Befriend the other interns or entry-level people you work with. Ask them to grab lunch or dinner after work. Is there a fun networking or social event this weekend or weeknight that looks interesting? Ask someone from work to join you! Having friends at work will help your internship feel more fulfilling.

7. This Internship is Temporary

Oftentimes, we figure out what we want to do by figuring what we don’t want to do. Even though you are disappointed with your internship, treat it as a learning experience for what you do not want to do. It’s a good lesson to learn now when you haven’t invested too much time or money into it. Additionally, once you realize that you only have a certain number of days of your internship left, you may start to feel inspired to make the most of it.

8. Create Healthy Competition with Yourself

When I feel frustrated with repetitive work, I create a healthy competition with myself. I try to get the work done faster than I did the previous day or see if there is a new strategy I can implement to accomplish the work. Setting goals against the work you did on previous days will keep you feeling sharp and attentive.

9. Plan After-Work Activities

When your days are filled with work you are not passionate about, they can feel long. Plan after-work activities to help keep you excited throughout the day. Search for networking or social events in your area, plan a dinner with a co-worker or friend, or catch a movie. There are many things you can organize after work that will help keep you from feeling too bummed out.

Bonus Tip #10: For Future Internships, Truly Know What You’re Getting Into

When you are applying for future internships, really understand what you are getting into. Just as the company interviews you, interview the company and ask them questions so you get a feel for what you will actually be doing on the job. Talk to other people who have interned at the company to hear what they have to say about their experience. Companies will be getting value from you during your internship, and you should gain value from your internships, as well. Ask lots of questions, do research, and if you can, ask to spend a day with a member of the team you are interested in to get a feel for what your summer, fall, or spring will look like.

How do you make things work when you are dissatisfied?