Forget the Ghosts, Beware of the Bad Internship


Saturday is Halloween, a holiday that is all about fear and terror. One thing that elicits fear in students and internship professionals alike is a bad internship.

An internship can go bad for different reasons. Sometimes the organization and the intern or experience and the intern just aren’t a good fit for one another. In other situations, the experience itself might simply be a poorly structured one.

What do you do if you are not happy with your internship or if the experience isn’t what you thought it would be? Here are some points to guide you through a bad internship:

  • Is it you? Do some true soul-searching. Is the problem the internship or is the problem your expectations? For example, it is always important to set goals for an internship experience. However, if the goals you set are unrealistic, you might experience disappointment in the overall experience. Assess your attitude in the workplace. Negative workplace behavior or a negative attitude will have an impact. Do you complain, miss deadlines, dress inappropriately, take part in office politics, arrive late, and/or leave early? These all indicate negativity that might be killing your internship. By setting attainable goals and fine-tuning your attitude and behavior, you can possibly turn your experience around.
  • If the internship is not what was originally described, attempt to improve it. Talk with your supervisor to clarify your goals for the experience and to identify the organization’s expectations of you. If there are specific skills that you want to develop, suggest projects you can work on that are both beneficial to the organization and that allow you to gain the desired skills. During the conversation, clearly articulate how the internship is different than you thought it would be. Keep in mind the possibility that responsibilities will increase over the length of the internship. By establishing open communication with your supervisor, you will learn if this is the case, or your supervisor will learn more about what you want to get out of the experience.

Remember that all internships are about learning, even the bad ones. Use a less than ideal internship to figure out what you don’t want in a career. Was the organization the problem? Be sure to assess company culture and personal fit in a future internship or job search. Was supervision an issue? Identify what kind of supervision you want or need. Did you dislike the job duties or the field as a whole? Meet with a Career Counselor and discuss other potential career paths.

Every internship is an opportunity to gather information that will help you make an informed career decision. Bad internships, though, also provide you with good material for those moments when you want to scare younger generations of interns. Mwahhaha!

Have a safe and happy Halloween!