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May 6, 2015 / Stephanie Anderson

How to avoid the internship from hell

shutterstock_212287693Last week we spoke to employers about finding the right intern. This week we are focusing on college students. Internships aren’t always what they appear, but there are some steps you can take to find the right internship and get the most out it!

From excessive filing and hourly coffee runs, to getting stuck on projects you didn’t sign up for, more than a few of us can recollect a less-than-stellar internship experience.

As a good intern, you’re doing the job because you want to learn and gain valuable experience. While you shouldn’t expect to work on the most in-demand projects, you also shouldn’t be asked to run to the dry-cleaners multiple times each day.

To avoid the internship from hell and ensure you add to your skill set during your internship (and not just a line item to your resume), consider this proactive approach:

1. Responsibilities: First, address the required responsibilities and any concerns you have during the interview process. Convey what you hope to get out of the internship. Ask about the organization’s plan for the intern’s duties and how your work will be evaluated. The hiring manager should be able to tell you, in general, what a typical day will be like if you’re hired.

2. Set Goals: Next, if you’re offered the job and you still aren’t confident everyone is on the same page, make a list of the goals you most want to meet and accomplish during the internship, email it to your supervisor and ask for confirmation. This kind of written communication can provide peace of mind.

3. Manage Expectations: Remember to keep your expectations in perspective. You are there to learn, but also to make employees’ lives easier. You may make copies, arrange meetings and do other menial tasks. The goal is that responsibilities like these are balanced with other more valuable activities that provide you with hands-on experience.

4. Be Professional: To gain trust early on so more people involve you in projects, always arrive on time, do every task with enthusiasm and prove that you are trustworthy; opportunities should follow. Even if they don’t, you will know you have done your best to make a lasting impression and gain some valuable references.

5. Be Proactive: When you get the assignments you want, don’t be afraid to speak up, says Erin Slayton, LinkUp’s 2014 marketing intern.

“Asking questions is one of the most important things you can do to get the most out of your internship,” she says. “Seeking clarification or feedback on assignments shows that you care about the quality of your work. Asking others how you can help shows you are a team player and that you are self-driven, and finding ways to help others can make you strong connections and improve your skill set.”

Erin did just that during her tenure at LinkUp and did a phenomenal job! (Bonus: check out Erin’s post on questions job seekers should ask in their interviews to stand out) 

6. Be Curious: Additionally, take it upon yourself to learn from your co-workers. Ask about their careers, how they got where they are today, what they like and dislike about the industry. Is there anything they would do differently if they could go back in time? This information can be invaluable, so take their advice to heart.

7. Network: Finally, even if your internship is lackluster, the opportunity to network is incredible. Spend time meeting people inside and outside your department throughout your internship. Be sure to connect on LinkedIn and stay in touch. Ask co-workers to coffee and lunch. Always be a grateful learner.

For more job search Tips and Tricks follow LinkUp on LinkedIn or check out theLinkUp Blog!