While some internships stick interns with tasks like running errands and photocopying, occasionally an internship will have an intern doing nothing…absolutely nothing. Doing nothing might sound like a dream to those who are getting yelled at for getting their supervisors a skim latte when they asked for a soy latte, but doing nothing gets boring fast. So if you’re spending eight hours everyday staring at a clock, here are some ways to pass the time.
1. Ask Your Supervisor for Something To Do
If you feel like your supervisor’s ignoring you, it might be because he or she has forgotten you’re there. Don’t take it personally. Your supervisor is probably not used to having someone who can make phone calls or fact-check, so he or she just starts to do it before thinking to ask you. Whether or not your supervisor actually has an assignment to give you, asking will make him or her more likely to think of you next time something needs to be done. Simply walk over and say something like, “I’m finished with X, Y, and Z tasks, so please let me know if there’s anything I can help you with.” If you’re worried about disturbing your supervisor while he or she is busy, send an email instead of asking in person.
2. Ask Everyone Else for Something To Do
There’s likely SOMEONE in your department who’s just totally overwhelmed and could use your help, so ask around. And if no one needs your help, take it as a sign you’re in the right industry—one where no one’s feeling so stressed out that they need an intern to finish their work for them.
3. Research Your Company and Competitors
Make sure you’re up on anything and everything going on at your company or in your industry. If you’re at a magazine or newspaper, read back issues. If you’re at a large corporation, Google News it. Then do the same for other companies in your industry. It will help you see what makes your company different than everyone else. That way, when you are given an assignment, you’ll know more about what your supervisor expects.
4. Create Your Own Assignment
Normally you want to avoid creating more work for yourself. But not if you’re an intern. Had a suggestion for your company’s new marketing strategy or an article pitch? Write up a proposal and send it to your supervisor. Hopefully, she’ll like it and let you work on it. At worst, she’ll decide not to use it, but at least she’ll know that you’re enthusiastic and thinking about your company.
5. Read Your Favorite Websites
But keep it to ones you can claim are related to your internship, and try not to make that reason too far-fetched. Luckily, if you’re working in a field you like, it shouldn’t be too hard to find something you like to read that is relevant to your work.
You should be able to explain it if your supervisor comes over or checks your computer’s history. And no, Facebook and Twitter are not related to your internship. Unless, of course, you’re looking for sources for an article or pubbing for your company’s event…
If you’ve finished one through four, you’ve done more than anyone can reasonably expect you to do (I mean, seriously, you’ve created your own work!). So just take a deep breath and relax. Meditate. Take some moments of “you” time. You deserve it.
7. Work Out
If there’s no more work you can do for your company, do some work for yourself. Of course, your options are limited since you’re at a desk. But why not try a chair roll? Sit up tall in your chair. Dig your heels into the floor and push the chair back. Roll the chair front and back, just using your feet. You can check out more desk exercises here.
8. Tour The Building
If the desk exercises aren’t cutting it for you, give yourself your own walking tour of your building. There’s a slight risk that you’ll be missing when your supervisor needs you, but if he or she hasn’t needed you all day, it might be worth it. Besides, it’s a good chance to get to know where everything is, in case your supervisor asks you to deliver a memo to another department or make some coffee (or maybe do something cool and interesting). Important tour stops include the chatty intern in finance and the cute guy in marketing, as well as the freebie table.
9. Volunteer Yourself for a Coffee Run
Coffee runs might be a dreaded task for most interns, but if you’re stuck in the office with nothing to do, waiting in line at Starbucks doesn’t sound so bad. Even if the line is really long. Actually, it might be better if the line is really long. Or, at least, if you tell your supervisor the line is really long—while you make a quick pit stop at the J. Crew next door.
10. Repeat Steps 5, 6, 7, and 9.
Become an “ohm” master. Get really good at those desk exercises. Make sure you’re 100% sure where the cute guy’s desk is. Don’t volunteer for another coffee break because that might seem like you’re trying to avoid being in the office. Stalk your favorite work-related blogs instead. And read Her Campus. But that goes without saying.