Challenges Faced by Interns

Updated on January 4, 2017
Source

The working world is a jungle, and the intern is at the bottom of the food chain.

There’s no doubt that the internship habitat is changing. Jobs that used to be entry-level have turned into internships with no paid vacation or benefits. The number of qualified college graduates in the job market has grown (more hooves in the watering hole). Unpaid internships are a necessary hurdle to pass in many fields to get to the paid internship.

Interning in Washington, DC this past year – the capital of internships and ambitious young people looking to gain experience in political offices, law firms, and non-profits – I have gained a few insights into the nature of internship positions.

Seven Common Internship Challenges

Any job will have challenges, but after a year of my own internship experience and hearing friends share about their internships over happy hours, I've found that there are some common intern challenges to expect. What are the common issues of an internship? I think it is that interns are three things:

  • Temporary
  • Under/unpaid
  • In a race to gain experience

Here are some of the big challenges that this work environment creates:

1. Not Enough Work

There’s not enough work assigned to you. You’re bored, underutilized, strumming your fingers at your desk, and tempted to peruse Facebook.

What to do: Sympathetic friends and parents hearing you moan about not having enough to do at work will recommend that you do your own research and create your own project. This is all very good-sounding advice, but, in practice, it’s hard to get fired up about a project that you’re not sure will be used or even looked at.

Asking your senior employees if you can help with their projects is fine, but it also can be embarrassing or disheartening repeatedly admitting that you have nothing to do. The best tactic I saw one of my fellow interns use was to ask employees if they have a moment to chat and give you an overview on their role in the office. As an intern you are there to learn about the profession, and if they have a conscience, they will comply. Once you’ve got them talking about their work, try to see where you could fit in. Maybe, merely by voicing things aloud, they will be inspired to get you onboard one of their longer term projects.

2. Too Much Work

Because interns are just glad to get a foot in the door, some work places may take advantage of young workers by giving them very long hours of dull, repetitive work. However, from my observations, this seems to be less of an intern problem and more the experience of entry-level assistants in the legal, corporate, and banking world.

What to do: Keep your long-term career goals clearly in mind to make it all feel worth the effort.

3. Afraid to Ask Questions

All of a sudden, there’s an influx of work, and you finally have the chance to prove yourself! But, you’re not sure about x, y, z….You may feel the pressure to be an independent and self-sufficient worker, but it’s so much better to clarify uncertainties!

What to do: Follow this one rule and you will become a better worker: don't assume. My friend is a civil engineer, and her supervisor told her that his most important rule was to never assume something's right. Always check if you’re not sure. You will avoid silly mistakes and crumbly bridges.

4. Supervisors Forget That You're New to the Field

Your supervisor gives you a project, but the directions don't quite make sense to you, or you're having trouble seeing the bigger picture. This goes along with “don’t assume.” Ask, ask, ask! It’s your right as an intern and it’s their duty as a supervisor! They will be impressed that you care about doing it right the first time or learning more about the overall field.

What to do: Even if you think you’ve got all the directions right, a good practice is to repeat back to them the details of the project to make sure you’re on the same page.

Sometimes supervisors are not located on site. My generation is, perhaps, too comfortable with email. Email is useful when outlining complicated directions, but usually a phone call is quicker and can communicate more. It also gives your supervisor a voice to attach to your name, thus making you more memorable.

5. Competition With Other Interns

Luckily, I’ve worked in groups where the interns had a collaborative relationship such that we could ask each other questions and team up on projects easily. Other office environments may not be quite so friendly, as interns might be competing for a future job opening or a good letter of recommendation. My friend Amy experienced working with a fellow intern who was a project snatcher. On days Amy was out, the other intern would complete projects Amy had been working on and turn them in to the supervisor under her own name.

What to do: Just relax and stay friendly. At this stage of your career, I've been told that the most important quality you can have is to be open-minded, drama-free, and easy to work with. It’s okay if you aren’t the smartest and fastest worker or the ruthlessly ambitious worker. People will want to work with you because you’re enjoyable to work with and have a good attitude.

6. Your Work Is Not Used

Your boss gives you a project that you finally feel will make use of your college education. But it ends up never being published, getting lost on their desk, or, whoops – there was a miscommunication between the senior staff and your project is now unnecessary. Not only is this frustrating because of your seemingly wasted time and effort, but it makes you less motivated for projects in the future.

What to do: Publish your written work online instead! Try not to look at it as wasted time and effort. Instead see it as a resume/experience booster. Keep a list of the tasks and projects you’ve accomplished during your time as an intern. Writing them down will help you remember what experiences you’ve had and give you the sense of completion you need to push on.

7) A New Lifestyle

If you’re a recent college graduate, you may be getting used to a new lifestyle that can be quite jarring. Instead of waking up at ten and going to a few classes a day, you’re sitting at a desk 9 to 5. You might be living at your parents' to save money. The hours and the new living situation clearly make socializing more difficult than before.

What to do: Don’t fall into the "go home, eat, shower, sleep routine!" Schedule socializing and adventurous activities. Do what some of my friends have done to keep life spicy and full of friends:

  • Join a local bowling, kickball, or other such sports team.
  • Find a pub that does trivia and get a regular posse together.
  • Adopt a dog: it will get you outside and let's you meet other dog owners.
  • Sign up for online dating. The most popular site in my friend group is OK Cupid.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • profile image

        edwin mats 

        5 weeks ago

        thank you so much

      • profile image

        Farhan Rao 

        7 months ago

        This is so beneficial, Thank You

      • profile image

        edinah boyani 

        12 months ago

        this is so encouraging thanks a lot

      • profile image

        ruvarashe 

        17 months ago

        thank you so much

      • profile image

        queen 

        21 months ago

        its really nice thanks a lot of that.

      • profile image

        queen 

        21 months ago

        its really nice thanks a lot of that.

      • profile image

        Matt 

        22 months ago from Sydney

        Very well written, something I can take away when our next intern comes in...

      • profile image

        Prossy Karungi 

        2 years ago

        I think the challenges faced during internship are quite similar all over.Thanks for pointing out the possible solutions for each challenge.

      • profile image

        Jennifer 

        2 years ago

        Thanks Thanks...! Bless you

      • profile image

        luboflorence 

        2 years ago

        THANKS ALOT FOR THE UPLOADED CHALLENGES,I HAVE BENEFITED FROM IT

      • Kristen Howe profile image

        Kristen Howe 

        3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

        Great tips for all interns entering the job workforce during their college terms. Very useful and helpful alike. Voted up!

      • profile image

        TurningIntern 

        3 years ago

        Great article! We've just released a web series about internships, if anyone wants to check it out (for a laugh and some support!) it is at www.youtube.com/user/turningintern

      • dhimanreena profile image

        Reena Dhiman 

        3 years ago

        I can relate myself to some of the challenges which you have mentioned in the hub. Great article !! Voted up!!

      • profile image

        Chege Jacqueline 

        4 years ago

        Thank you.its perfect. Tackling MOST challenges faced by interns in a way that any reader can enjoy.

      • profile image

        KIRAWXZ 

        4 years ago

        Looking forward for my first intern experience...

      • Augustus Samuel profile image

        chukwunonso samuel 

        5 years ago

        great advice, your writing is edifying.

      • profile image

        VVV 

        5 years ago

        THANKS

      • Simone Smith profile image

        Simone Haruko Smith 

        6 years ago from San Francisco

        Boy, does THIS ever bring back memories! I wish there were some sort of internship advocacy movement out there- don't you? Maybe there is one, but everyone is too desperate for work (ANY work!!) to really fight back against the tyranny of crappy under/unpaid internship work. Le sigh.

        Maybe someday, we shall rise up.....

      • profile image

        nforger 

        6 years ago

        I love your advice that the most valued virtues of an intern are to be open-minded, easy to work with and "drama-free." I never thought of it in quite those words but you're right - as an employer, those traits are worth a lot to me. And somehow it sends the message to both employer and intern: Relax!

      • Tara McNerney profile imageAUTHOR

        Tara McNerney 

        6 years ago from Washington, DC

        Thank you Danette! I did have a good internship experience - any job at any level has challenges, and I guess that's what makes us learn. =)

      • Danette Watt profile image

        Danette Watt 

        6 years ago from Illinois

        I can't believe no one has commented on this hub yet! I'm being sincere when I say I thought this was very well done and had good advice. I especially liked that you added a solution to each problem/challenge. I hope your internship experience was a positive one and good luck in your career!

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, toughnickel.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://toughnickel.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)