6 Tips for Doing “Real Work” at Your Internship
It happens to the best of us. You worked hard to land your dream internship with a large corporation, only to find out that 90 percent of your tasks are considered “grunt work.”
You thought your boss was giving you remedial tasks for the first couple of weeks to help you ease into the new environment before starting your big project. Unfortunately, it’s been a month and you still spend your 40 hours making copies, fetching things from the printer, and organizing filing cabinets.
But you’re smart!
You should be working on challenging projects and proving your worth on high priority assignments. So what’s the deal? If you feel like you’re spending your entire internship cleaning out the cabinets, then it’s time to clean up your internship.
Here are my best 6 tips to get past the grunt work and actually make your internship worthwhile:
1. It’s not your fault, but it is your problem.
Your contributions in the workplace play a vital role in forming your work identity. If your coworkers see you organizing the pencil tray and fetching items from the printer day after day, but they don’t see you participating in meetings or working on key projects, they may fail to view you as a valuable asset to the team.
It’s not your fault that your supervisor doesn’t provide you with meaningful assignments, but you need to take action to get useful work experience.
Otherwise, your internship might even be detrimental to your success with the company. For example, you might have a resume that boasts of your video editing skills. If your co-workers only view you as the office assistant, your name probably won’t come to mind when they’re looking to fill the new vacancy on the visual communications team.
2. Utilize your listening skills.
Make a strong effort to be educated about your company, your department, and the specific team you work for. Find out what projects your colleagues are working on, and show a genuine interest in them. Ask your supervisor questions about her role and responsibilities, and begin thinking about ways that your skills can be utilized on different projects.
Never underestimate the worth of asking smart questions.
If you can show your coworkers that you have an interest in their assignments, they’ll be more inclined to ask for your assistance. Better yet, if you’ve done your homework and can think of specific ways to help out, your coworkers will be able to recognize your willingness to contribute to meaningful tasks.
3. Be efficient.
Whatever your tasks are, do them to the best of your ability, and do them efficiently. You have to organize the office supply cabinet? Make it spotless, and do it in half the time you’re allotted. If your boss gives you a list of tasks to do for the day, finish them early and ask for more work.
Sometimes you might finish your work early when your boss isn’t around. Don’t use this as an excuse to take some downtime. Instead, let your coworkers know that you’re looking for some work and would love to help out however you can. This will show that you’re motivated and honest, and it’s a great way to network in the workplace.
4. Vocalize your expectations.
If you’ve worked hard at your current tasks, but still aren’t getting meaningful work, then it’s time to express your job goals. Set up a short meeting with your supervisor and let her know that you’re ready to tackle some challenging work.
By this point, you should have a good idea of where your skills can be utilized. Let her know where you can be useful. Being upfront with your expectations will likely encourage your boss to take the time to give you meaningful work.
5. Remember, no job is perfect.
Even when you’re able to secure big projects, remember that you’re never too good for administrative work.
As the intern, it’s likely that your coworkers will continually delegate less-desirable jobs to you simply because they can. No one likes to be the errand-runner, but if you can push through the grunt work with a smile on your face, your coworkers will know you for your capabilities and your positive attitude.
6. When it’s time to call it quits.
Unfortunately, not all internships are created equal. How much exposure and vital experience you are given is often entirely dependent upon how much time your supervisor is willing to spend delegating projects to you. If your daily tasks are continually used to keep you busy, but aren’t truly benefitting you, it may be time to find a new position elsewhere.
Even if you’re internship isn’t what you were expecting, remember that it’s up to you make the most of it. Build relationships with your coworkers, maintain a positive attitude, and never forget what you’re work is worth (even if your coworkers sometimes do).