How to make the most of a disappointing internship 1

You’re halfway through your internship and, well, it’s not exactly going the way you hoped when you filled in your application form six months ago. You’re not excited about coming into work every day, in fact, you can barely wake up at 7 am when your alarm goes off and sitting at a desk for eight hours a day fills you with dread. 

It might be that the demands of work have left your boss and colleagues with too much to do so you’re not getting enough supervision and are left to your own devices, or it may be that they just haven’t thought the internship process through - they might need the extra help, but are so disorganised they don’t know where to put you or how to train you. 

Perhaps you’re bored having been given only admin and clerical tasks where you just can’t excel, you don’t have any responsibility, and the projects you were promised in your interview aren’t happening. 

Luckily, internships only have a set duration and are temporary. However, they still need to look good on paper and you need to show you gained valuable skills and experience - you’ll have to write about how you spent your time on your CV and speak about your internship experience at future interviews.  

Here are a few ways to help you through your time:

Fix it

Talk to your line manager and explain to him or her that you are not getting as much out of your internship experience as you had hoped. It might be that just talking to someone makes them realise that you are actually bored out of your mind, and they might quickly get the ball rolling to offer you some more interesting work or specific projects. Explain what you thought you’d get out of the internship when you went for interviews, and mention any projects you might have discussed previously. It might be that there’s something that will keep you busy and won’t require you to keep checking back for additional work. 

If you feel as though you are being sidelined, ask whether you can observe certain processes to get a better feel for the industry. You might not be a fully-fledged member of the team, but if you feel as though you are being left out of meetings and discussions, ask whether you can observe them. 

If the office is ridiculously busy, you may have identified something you could be getting on with, for example streamlining an office process or creating formal documentation, and if this is the case, mention it to your line manager. Working towards something by yourself will give you full ownership over a project, and something to show the boss at the end. If you’ve put your heart and soul into it you’ll end up with a good reference and they might even ask you back. You’ll also have something to say at job interviews, explaining to them how you didn’t have as much work to do as you hoped, so you found some flaws in company processes and spent your time fixing them. 

Make friends

Above and beyond the boredom of your day-to-day tasks you might find that you enjoy the office culture and the company. If you get on well with people they’ll want you to succeed elsewhere, and being in the business already they might have an idea of which companies are hiring and what opportunities there are. Their career path is also likely to have been similar to the journey you are about to embark on, and you’ll gain a lot from their insight and shared experiences. 

Volunteer to help co-workers out or work with them if their workload is heavy - if you do a task with care, however small, from their perspective they will have thought that you had a great internship and might put in a good word for you when it comes to future interviews. Keep in touch with the co-workers you got on well with beyond your internship - you never know where your next break will come from!

How to make the most of a disappointing internship 2

Stay positive

Remember that an internship isn’t everything, and the situation is only temporary. Leave your frustrations at home and try to make the most of each day. Although your internship has not been all it’s cracked up to be, you want to feel as though you’ve made the most of your experience and time. Do everything to your best ability so when you walk away from the experience you won’t have any regrets. Even if you didn’t get out what you expected you will still have learnt from the experience. 


If you find yourself twiddling your thumbs and no one is paying any attention, use your free time to gain some insights into the industry. There may be trade magazines lying around for you to peruse, or you might choose to take some online courses to sharpen your skills. If your organisation has access to computer programmes that you don’t have at home or at university, you could spend some time getting to know these so that when you go for further interviews you’ll have a working knowledge of them, however small. 

Use your experience

If you didn’t have a good internship, the lessons you will have gained from your experience will be invaluable. You might have realised that the industry wasn’t for you, or that you’ve got a clearer picture of how to move forward. You might realise how you fit into the office environment, and where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

You’ll also have something to talk about when you go for interviews and put on your CV. You’ll have valuable office experience, alongside teamwork, communication, independent working, organisation and knowledge of your industry. When you talk to future employers, you can let them know that you didn’t enjoy your internship and why this was the case, but remember to back up your arguments with the ways in which you turned the situation around. The initiative, drive and determination you’ve shown to succeed in creating your own projects and developing your skills will make them want to hire you even more!

Eluceo Logo