So Much for Your Dream Internship: How to Deal with Frustrating Internship Situations

Hey there, new intern! Whether you’re strutting into the Hearst Tower or editing national commercials downtown, you’re officially the office newbie. Though your title may sound glamorous and appealing, not everything will run as smoothly as you hope it will. It’s likely that you will encounter some frustrating scenarios during the course of your internship, so HC is here to help. Director of Career Services at the Hofstra University Career Center Suzanne Dagger offers you some tips on how to deal with these potential situations. Read on!

HerCampus:You’re an aspiring writer, but your internship limits your tasks to photo copying, sending emails, and doing petty data entry. How do you remain enthusiastic?

Suzanne Dagger: Show some initiative! Sometimes employers aren’t prepared with a long list of things for you to do so it’s easier to give you basic duties. Go to your supervisor and let him or her know that you would love to get involved with “X.” When it comes to bosses who are control freaks, they feel like they don’t have enough time to train you. So spend the time to create something you can contribute and offer to help out; your work won’t go unnoticed! If you are deciding whether or not to take an internship, you need to weigh your options. It isn’t always worth giving up hands-on experience to work for a big-name company.

HC:Your supervisor isn’t so super. How can you stay professional and make a positive impression on your boss when he or she is difficult to get along with?

SD:“Kill them with kindness” is an excellent motto to follow. If you walk into your internship with a smile and complete each task with enthusiasm, your boss will probably soften up. As an intern, you cannot show your feelings in a workplace setting so you need to develop a thick skin. If you ever disagree with someone, it is ok to offer your opinion in a delicate, positive manner. You must know that it may not be heard, and you must be ok with that. You will learn how to communicate with all kinds of people in this world through internships.

HC:Some of your intern peers are really competitive. Though your work comes first, you would like to come out of this experience with a friend or two. What do you do?

SD: With internships, competition is normal and a reality. You should know that in the end, 1-2 of you may end up with a job at this company. If you’d like to make a friend, ask someone to go to lunch with you or attend a happy hour to break the ice. Just be mindful of the culture of your workplace, as you don’t want to become known as the “chatty intern.” If it’s all right, by all means, follow suit. Another option: Ask to attend a meeting with your supervisor. There may be other interns in a different department!

HC: You make a big mistake on one of your projects and end up inconveniencing your supervisor. How can you make it up to them?

SD: First, you must 100% own up to your mistake. Honesty is best here, so own it and don’t hide it. This is how you learn so don’t be defensive. Next, apologize and offer to fix it. You can offer to stay late or come in early to fix the problem. Just make sure you say something right away. Remember, you’re human and mistakes happen!

HC: Your supervisor asks you to do something, and you have no idea how to do it. What should you do?

SD:  This depends on your personality. If you tend to be insecure, you may need to take some time to relax and sit with your situation. Ask yourself, “Can I actually do this?” If you can’t get it done, be honest. Tell your supervisor: “Listen, I’m having some concerns with this project and this is why.” Tell him or her what you need to make it happen, not just “I can’t do this.” Don’t inconvenience your boss any more than you need to.
HC:There are no other interns in your office, and everyone else is older, so you feel really out of place. How can you feel more comfortable?
SD:I had nothing in common with my coworkers at my first job. I made it my business to get friendly and find some common ground to strike up conversation. If this happens to you, try to relate and bring up something basic to talk about like music, movies, or sports. You’ll be surprised at how much you actually have in common or what opportunities can come out of it. I ended up getting a part-time babysitting job!
HC:You’re interning in department “X” and halfway through you realize your dream job is actually to be in department “Y.”  How should you ask your supervisor to let you try it out?
SD: If you’re already committed to department “X”, stick with your original internship. You don’t want to appear distracted or uninterested in your current work. If there’s time to reach out to department “Y” to ask friendly questions, go for it! It could turn into a potential internship for next semester. Again, it’s essential that your responsibilities are clearly outlined before you sign up for your internship.
HC: It’s an important day at the office, and you’re freaking out because you’ve got a run in your stockings and a pesky stain on your blazer. What should you do?
SD:If you’re interning in a city, you’re lucky because there are convenience stores on every corner. Stop in a store and recover! To avoid these situations, women should have extra pantyhose and makeup essentials in their desk drawer. It’s also helpful to keep a pair of heels under your desk and carry Tide To Go  in your purse.
Remember HCers, no internship is perfect. There is something to learn from every frustrating situation, so just be strong. You will end up with a thicker skin and preparedness for the corporate world. Get it, girl!

Have any of these situations ever happened to you? Discuss in the comments section!

Suzanne Dagger, Director of Career Services at the Hofstra University Career Center

Gennifer is the Branded Content Specialist for Her Campus Media. In her role, she manages all sponsored content across platforms including editorial, social, and newsletters. As one of HC's first-ever writers, she previously wrote about career, college life, and more as a national writer during her time at Hofstra University. She also helped launch the How She Got There section, where she interviewed inspiring women in various industries. She lives in New York City.