If you have been an intern definitely you know of the anxious moments before you reported for your first internship. It comes with beams of optimism, enlightenment and happiness. They carry the promise of a positive future.On reporting to your work station, you realize your internship isn’t exactly what you expected it to be. Frankly, it’s disappointing. Reality check, you’re at the bottom of the corporate food chain.

More and more institutions are offering internships before graduation.This is a recipe for disaster or more realistically a vicious cycle in which college students are forced to take up internships that deplete their bank accounts with the hope it pays off down the road, which is definitely not a guarantee.

To most of us, an internship provides the first encounter with the real world. It will probably be your first time to spend an entire day wearing a neat bright colored shirt buttoned up and a pair of sensible shoes; those 2-inch ankle boots for girls not the 7 inch stilettos we are accustomed with. Imagine eagerly reporting to work 15 minutes early. You can’t wait to get in to kick start your career.

Honestly speaking, you’re not going to be able to save the world in your first week. Hopeful to be entrusted with actual work, chances are you will be given a lot of clerical work from photocopying,filing to arrangement of files. In case you didn’t know, the real world entails a lot of photocopying, paper filing and tea fetching as some times you’re sent to buy KDFs, bread and any other escort to accompany the office tea for your bosses. Some of the escort will fall onto your desk as a thank you for job well done.

Getting your hands on real work comes with lot of responsibility. As an intern, you haven’t proven yourself of being capable of handling the ‘heavy stuff’. You will have to deal with the demeaning donkey work as a rite of passage into being a real employee. Ideally what you can do is to prove your self worth so that your boss can be convinced to give you more meatier jobs.

Personally I’ve been an unpaid intern in 2 organizations first as an audio production assistant in a certain radio then a customer experience surveyor at different branches of a pharmacy. However, for early mornings purposes, they have been real world experiences that have not earned me a dime. I met fantastic people who are great future referees for those positions on-top of the awesome experience.

The greatest thing about unpaid internships is that you are able to do the real work as you experience how things are done considering the company isn’t paying you anything thus a great focus on learning the job, which was extremely useful.
Before you begin your internship with stars in your eyes, remember that interning is often about paying your crunchy work.Here is how I learnt to make myself indispensable after my 4th internship:

So you can nip these problems;  when you think you’re doing nothing constructive ask your boss if there are any projects he or she is tackling that you can work on. It’s natural to have a lot of free time when you’re an intern. There is probably a lot of work to do around the office but it’s possible that it’s not work that an intern would be assigned to do. It could also be that your boss has a lot on his or her own plate and has completely overlooked your workload. If there’s no work for you, try to create work for yourself. Chances are there are some stagnant projects on your boss’ to-do list that you can start working on yourself. Alternatively you can ask other members of your team that need some help on their own projects. There is also this chance that you can also propose projects that you can do on your own. These projects can showcase your ability so that your boss can trust you with bigger tasks too.

In case of confusion; you have no clear plan or rather you haven’t received enough guidance.If you’re confused about how you should accomplish your tasks, always ask. Never be afraid to ask questions! Your boss probably thinks that you already know what to do and  his or her instructions were clear. Let your boss know that you need additional guidance when necessary. If you’re keen to know about your job performance, ask your supervisor to evaluate you weekly or monthly. This helps you learn about your strengths and weaknesses as an intern. If you haven’t done it yet, request your boss for some time and talk to your boss about having a training plan for the remainder of your internship. Talk to him or her about the things you want to learn and achieve so that your boss also knows what to teach you and how to guide you. As your internship progresses have progress meetings so that you can both see if you are on track. Always make sure that you communicate with your boss so as to be on the same page when it comes to your internship.

Your internship doesn’t pay;this scenario doesn’t apply to everyone. Most internships these days are unpaid. Some interns are lucky enough to get compensation but it’s mostly because the workload is heavier than the usual internship or maybe the work entails a lot of expenses. Ideally, you should sort out stipend issues before the start of your internship. If you’re encountering unseen expenses such as transportation costs for running errands or buying materials for projects, you should talk to your boss about getting additional assistance to cover for the expenses.The point here is compensation is in experience, not monetary value.I completely stand by internships for the experience they provide. You develop excellent contacts and relationships during the internships which you will realize how crucial they are for entry-level jobs or towards the next step in your career. However, this brings about the problem; talented students are working for companies that ten years ago, paid employees doing the same tasks, except now they get slapped with an “Intern Ann” name tag and receive college credit instead of cash.

Doing mindless work; always try to do your best when undertaking the tasks you have been assigned. You have to hustle to prove your worth then hopefully, your boss will trust you enough to give you meatier roles. However, if all you’re doing is clerical work then you’re not doing anything valuable or educational, try to talk to your supervisor about it. You want to leave your internship with new insights and skills, so work with your boss on ensuring that you will do relevant work. Volunteer in helping out in some projects that your team is working on. You can propose to work on a solo project to cap off your internship experience.

No guidance; As an intern, it’s likely you don’t much about what goes on at the work station. But you wouldn’t want to stay that way for.You are left out of meetings or work discussions Being an intern, you’re part of the company. You will work on things alongside other employees, however, there are some things that you won’t be a part of, such as boardroom meetings where tier one confidential issues are discussed plus its above your clearance . Aside from this, meetings are nebulous by nature and adding more people will bring further complications thus longer periods. While they may not allow you to participate in meetings, you can ask to be a silent observer. Ask if you can come along to some key meetings just to see how projects are conceptualized and actualized. Tell your boss how you just want to get a complete picture of how things work at an office environment.However, make sure you don’t disrupt the proceedings by keeping your word of being a silent observer.

Longer working hours; If you didn’t discuss work hours with your boss during the initial interview, make sure to bring up the topic as soon as possible. This can be asked with a brief, “What are the working hours for this position?” either in person or via email. Understand that your hours aren’t necessarily set in stone. One of the best ways to stand out during your internship is to arrive early and leave late, especially when you’re working on a big project.If you’re truly unable to take on more hours, ask your boss if he or she has a few free minutes to discuss your schedule. Explain that you had expected a certain number of hours and are unable to put in more time and let her know why. Offer to let him or her know if your schedule changes and make sure to follow up.

Stipend issues; If you don’t have a stipend but you find yourself shelling out your personal funds to cover work expenses, ask your boss for a reimbursement. There shouldn’t be a problem with reimbursing these expenses as long as you keep official receipts, so make sure to ask your boss or the finance department how the reimbursement process goes. Your internship is one of the best ways you can prepare for life in the real world. It’s the closest you can get to an actual job without actually taking on the workload of a full-time employee. Make the most of what is given to you and if you encounter any of these internship problems, do what you can to turn these problems into opportunities. Good luck, intern!

Brigding the gap between reality and expectations;It’s one thing to score your dream internship. It’s quite another thing to have the dream match the reality. During the first few days you might find that you’re becoming an expert operating as the office messenger, photocopying expert as you operations are restricted between the water dispenser,cafe and thermos instead of gaining the learning experience you had hoped for. You were expecting a jam-packed schedule, but your boss doesn’t give you enough work to keep you busy.

More ‘busy’ work and less “real” work;  Interning isn’t always as exciting as it looked on the hills. “Interns are often given what amounts to overflow work that the regular staff doesn’t have time to handle. It isn’t the most glamorous, but it’s the real deal. Realize that there may be some mundane tasks, undertake them quickly, ask for more challenging work and you’re likely to get it! It’s important to look at your internship with perspective. You may not be able to write the cover story for the magazine, but you might be able to contribute a research story or fact-check a piece. Those tasks aren’t ‘busy’ work – they’re crucial for the production of the magazine! When you’re consistently receiving real assignments, it’s not so terrible to spend an hour sorting mail or running a not so relevant errand for the company.

Not getting along with your boss; You might not be Best Friends Forevers’ with your boss, no matter how much you rock as an intern. With a positive relationship with your boss it can go a long way towards turning your internship into a great experience.Some people are not engaging at first thus learn how to read personalities so as to figure out how to interact with that person though it will take time. One way to speed up the process is to figure out the best way to interact with your boss. Does he or she prefer face to face or email conversation? Does he or she invite you to lunch, or are you expected to eat by yourself or with other interns? Observe these basic details during your first few days in the office for a smooth sailing.

Not getting along with the fellow interns; Don’t stress yourself if you aren’t getting along with other interns from the word go. Just like getting to know your boss, this takes time. You’ll likely spend a lot of time with the other interns, including collaborating on the same projects, so it shouldn’t be tough to get to know them on a professional basis. The next step requires putting yourself out there a bit by inviting them for lunch! It’s a quick and easy way to get to know them on a personal level.Take the time to hang out a bit after work or on weekends so you can get to know each other better and find someone with whom you connect. It’s an opportunity to build relationships that may become important down the line. Remember, your fellow interns will be eyeing for the same jobs after graduation thus you might end up being colleagues at some point in the future. Establishing positive relationships with your peers now can only help you down the road.

Overwhelmed with tasks; When the task you have been assigned is tough, it’s important to let someone know as soon as possible.Never be silent at times off difficulty as you will be setting yourself up for failure. It’s not uncommon for interns to feel unprepared, as interns replace entry-level positions in many companies. Before bugging your boss with every minor question, do your homework. Research your question online, check any manual or guides you were given by the company or ask other interns if they know how to solve the problem. If it’s a matter of learning a new skill, check out a book on the subject or see if you can find step-by-step guide online. If you’ve done all the things and you’re still lost, it’s time to talk to your boss.Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification when you don’t understand something or ask to slow the pace a bit. Interns are afraid to speak up because they believe they will be judged harshly for not being able to keep up or they are afraid they will make a fool of themselves. Sometimes you have to remind your supervisors that this is a new territory for you. They are mostly on autopilot a lot of the time. A gentle request for a little more direction often helps.



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