The summer before I started my junior year at UConn, I was hired as a marketing intern for an architectural firm. As an English and Journalism double-major, I knew I could take my career in a few directions, and wanted to try something new. Plus, three months working in an air-conditioned office exploring the field of marketing while getting paid pretty well totally beat out my other option of customer service at a local grocery store (which I ended up doing on the weekends). Cushy office job writing press releases and helping to identify a client base vs. returning spoiled meat and running the lotto ticket machine? Yeah, no competition there.
What I hadn’t banked on was that my internship didn’t pan out as expected – at all. My job was to cold-call and update a client list of thousands of contacts. And I made those awkward calls in my cube, surrounded by engineers and architects diligently working on CAD projects and blueprints, who didn’t make a peep. The press releases I wrote were never used, I didn’t get much exposure to marketing, and didn’t connect with my coworkers. But, I wasn’t pushing shopping carriages or dealing with people’s coupons not ringing in correctly. So, there was that.
As someone who now helps companies create internship programs for Huskies, I know now that my internship was really a part-time job. And I figured out within my first few weeks that it wasn’t a fit for my skills or interests. But I couldn’t quit because I needed the money, wanted the experience on my resume, and it was an easy gig.
Hopefully, you aren’t reading this going, “ME TOO!” and your summer internship is rewarding, educational and fun. But if it isn’t, here are a few tips from someone who was in your shoes morethanafewcoughcough years ago.
- Use this an opportunity to figure yourself out. I almost pulled my hair out having to sit in a quiet office for a summer, with very little social interaction, in an industry I knew nothing about. So for my next round of internship searching, I did my research and asked about office culture, work style and specific internship projects. I had a better understanding of what I valued in the workplace, and what to look for in round 2.
- Network. You’re going to move on from this experience because unfortunately, summer ends soon. Who have you met this summer that you’d want to keep in contact with for professional reasons? Are there any alumni in the office? Does anyone have a cool job that you’d want to do? Have you asked them about it?
- Learn to deal. Ok, that’s harsh. But unless there’s illegal activity, abuse, or you’re being treated horribly, keep your head up and try to find something positive from the experience. Are you making money? Did you learn anything new? Above anything else – you’re learning how to deal with setbacks or difficult situations. Difficult situations…hm… don’t they ask about those in interviews? Yep, you dealt with a difficult situation because your internship experience didn’t match your expectations and this is how you handled it or worked around it. Great, you already have one response prepared for your next interview. And if there is illegal activity or abuse going on in your internship, please call us. That’s not ok.
- Exhaust your options. Are there other ways to approach the situation, and can you make it better? Can you ask for other work, or different work? I ended up volunteering to help out another manager with writing projects during my internship, just to get more relevant work experience. Do you have a mentor or someone you can confide in to get some advice?
- Come to CCD in September. We have resources and advice to help you with your next internship search.
image via hercampus.com