When Your Internship Isn’t What You Expected

No matter how prepared you are, it could happen to you. It’s the second day of your internship. You aced the interview process and were all set for a great experience. However, you have already found that your internship is not what you expected it to be.

Maybe you don’t have as much autonomy as you thought you would, or your project involves a lot more Excel work than you were hoping for. So now you are left wondering what to do.

Do you…

A. Quit immediately? you’ve already wasted one day at your internship, why waste anymore?

B. Stay at the internship, but don’t take it seriously? For example, consistently coming in late and leaving early.

C. Stay at the internship, read this blog post, and make the most of your experience?

Hopefully you chose option C. Here are some tips to help you make the most out of any internship experience:

  • Communicate with your supervisor. If the internship position your supervisor describes to you on your first day is different than what you previously discussed, it’s okay to professionally address this with them. Go to your supervisor with your concerns, as well as a couple of tangible action steps that could be taken or ideas of projects you could work on that would make this internship experience a positive one. It is beneficial to both you and your supervisor if you are successful at your internship, so most supervisors will be willing to help.
  • Keep an Open Mind. Even though you are bringing with you a wealth of experience and knowledge, there is still a lot you have to learn about your internship site. Most employers are not going to throw an intern directly into solo projects in the first couple weeks. They will first want to train you and make sure you understand how the organization works. View this training as a positive and put your best effort into every task you are assigned. Eventually this should lead to your supervisor trusting you with larger and more independent projects in later weeks of your internship.
  •  Learn what you don’t like. It may be that even after communicating with your supervisor and keeping an open mind, you are still unhappy with your internship experience. Unfortunately, that happens sometimes. However, feel grateful that it was at a 10 week internship with a definitive end date and not a long term career. One main benefit of internships is that they give you experience in a career field you think you may be interested. Even in an internship that you didn’t enjoy, you still walk away with a wealth of self-knowledge about your preferences on: work environment.

Even at your “dream” internship, it is likely that not every day at work is always going to be the most exciting or fulfilling. Most jobs involve some administrative work or other tasks that may not be as interesting to you, but these tasks often lay the foundation that allows you and the organization to complete more meaningful work. Whether your internship turns out to be what you expected or not, there is a lot you can learn from the experience that will help shape your next internship experience and potentially, your career journey.


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