Alex: How to Cope with Mediocre Internships

I went back home to California this summer after a stellar semester abroad excited to start my new internship. My internship abroad had been everything I could have dreamed of—a cool office, supportive supervisors and fellow employees, meaningful tasks that taught me a lot, interesting and noteworthy clients, Friday Happy Hours (hey, if we’re being honest). After completing an amazing internship, I was positive that my summer internship would be just as fun, educational and welcoming. Unfortunately, my expectations were a bit too high. To make a long story short, my summer internship was not the experience I was hoping for, but I know I’m not the only one who has dealt with an underwhelming internship.

So how do you make a mediocre internship better? Sometimes things can be out of your control, but here are some tips on how to at least stay positive during those tough temporary months in the office.

  1. Keep a smile on your face: You’re probably rolling your eyes at me right now and saying, “Yeah right, Alex, you’re crazy if you think I can even smile for two seconds at this place.” It might be hard, but it’s important to be respectful of the people in your office and not come across as the grumpy intern in the corner who would rather be anywhere else. A positive attitude can really show through in the office and it will make a good impression on your supervisor and coworkers (and maybe a future recommendation?).
  2. Find positives in your work location: This might sound dumb, but sometimes finding a favorite lunch joint around the corner or making the park down the block your go-to lunch spot can give you something to look forward to throughout the day. At my internship this summer, I didn’t have a go-to lunch spot but even acknowledging the fact that my internship was in one of (very, very, very) few L.A. areas with decent free parking was enough to brighten my day.
  3. Make a perfect work playlist: If your supervisor doesn’t mind if you use headphones, make a fun playlist of your favorite songs to work to or new music that you’ve been meaning to check out. Crunching out a press release or online article can be a lot more enjoyable when your favorite tunes are on.
  4. Schedule meetings with your supervisors: If you’re feeling like you’re learning nothing new, schedule a meeting with your boss (or the CEO if available) to discuss the industry. You can’t always control the tasks your supervisors will give you, but talking to them about their experience in the field and any advice they have will at least give some meaning to your internship and help you feel like you’ve learned something. Don’t be afraid to set these meetings up, even if your office is really busy! If a company offers internships, it’s their responsibility to teach the interns and a quick meeting every once in a while will not ruin your supervisor’s busy schedule.
  5. Always bored? Catch up on reading: If you feel like you’re constantly asking your supervisor for tasks to no avail and twiddling your thumbs behind the computer, find some good articles and news to catch up on. BU offers The New York Times and the Boston Globe to students for free so utilize those resources! One of my favorite e-mail newsletters to catch up on news is The Lunch Read, a collection of the best online and viral articles sent to you every Wednesday. Catching up on news and pop culture throughout the day can make you feel like you’re at least learning  and doing something—whether or not it’s related to your internship.

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