Career Advice

Even A Bad Internship Is A Good Experience

Throughout our careers, we’ll have good jobs and bad; bosses we grow to call friends, and those we never want to see again; and companies we loved working for – and others we deem not worthy of respect.

And human nature dictates we’ll probably talk more about the bad jobs, bosses and companies than we will the good. Not necessarily because we are/were bitter or angry, although we probably are. But because after we let go of the emotion – there is a lot more to learn from a bad experience.

I once worked for a start-up that was probably the worst run organization I’d ever seen (and I was in the military and organized community youth sports, so that is saying quite a bit). And yet, after the experience was over… universally everyone associated with that start-up agreed we all learned significantly more than we might have in a successful operation. We coined the phrase: “Sometimes, we get a PhD in what NOT to do.”

Internships are the perfect place to learn from a bad experience. The “time served” is relatively short. There is no pressure to continue past your agreed upon commitment. And, there is no nasty divorce-style situation common of a severed employment relationship.

In other words, all we have to do… is learn.

If you are stuck in a bad internship, make your situation much more tolerable by:

  1. Remember: this is a short term commitment (there is a built in “light at the end of the tunnel”)
  2. Focus: Keep your original goals – those established when you accepted the internship – in mind; try not to dwell on the negative
  3. Prevent: do NOT allow yourself to become a “victim” – keep a great attitude (prospective employers are watching how you handle a negative situation)
  4. Engage: overcome your disappointment by initiating conversation with mentors and managers; discover – from their point of view – why this internship may not be going well
  5. Initiate: corrective action – and your satisfaction with this experience – is just as much your responsibility as the employers (time to make some lemonade out of lemons, perhaps?)

If the internship does not improve after you’ve kept a positive outlook and done everything possible to correct your situation…

Well, it’s time to start earning your PhD in what not to do.

Learn well, and turn your bad internship into a good experience – for your career.

This blog by YouTern CEO Mark Babbitt was originally posted by our friends at Classroom to Cubicle.

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