Each year on the last Thursday in July, employers take the opportunity to celebrate their hard-working interns on National Intern Day. The holiday was created by the job search platform WayUp in 2017 as a way to shine a light on the oft-overlooked interns of the workforce and give them the recognition that they deserve. An internship is a great way to gain hands-on experience in the field of your choice as you begin your career, but interns often face their own set of unique obstacles. Today we will be talking about some common challenges many interns face.
A Steep Learning Curve
Students and recent graduates put in a lot of time studying, learning, and preparing for their careers; however, the true challenge comes once all their knowledge is put to the test in a real-world situation. Many interns undertake their very first working experience while participating in an internship, and are often expected to participate at the same level as an organization’s full-time employees, despite their lack of on-the-job training. This can lead to stress or feelings of being overwhelmed, which may deter some individuals from realizing their true potential in their career.
The best way to combat those overwhelming feelings is to keep an open line of communication between yourself, your employer, and your internship program manager. In the initial phase of your internship, ask your program manager and your employer detailed questions about their expectations. Additionally, if you are unsure of how to complete a certain task, it won’t hurt to ask your employer or a colleague for help. This will show that you’re willing to learn and take the initiative, and getting comfortable with this sort of communication will be a huge advantage in the long run.
As an intern, you’ll likely be given some of the tasks that no one else wants to do. Even if you land an internship in your chosen field, at the company of your dreams, you might be going on coffee runs or cleaning up the conference room after meetings. The best way to handle a situation such as this is to change your perspective, and actively seek out the advantages.
While performing mundane tasks, take the opportunity to learn the culture of the company, as well as its core values. If you’re handing out coffee in the morning, you’re actually in a great position to expand your professional network while making yourself known around the office. As boring as the menial tasks are, they are part of the foundation of any organization, so keep your head up, smile, and be personable – someone very important will probably notice.
Lack of Feedback
Full-time employees are typically scheduled for performance evaluations. These evaluations are particularly helpful as they provide insight into an employee’s strengths, as well as what aspects of their role can be improved upon. Entry-level employees and interns can sometimes be overlooked when it comes to feedback or performance reviews, which may leave them feeling unsure or perhaps confused.
Earlier, we spoke a bit about keeping the lines of communication between yourself and your employer open, and this situation is no different. In the absence of any formal performance evaluations, there is absolutely no shame in asking your manager or supervisor if they have some time to talk about your work performance. Not only will you learn more about your employer’s expectations, but you will demonstrate to your employer that you are eager to learn and improve.
Little or No Pay
Lack of pay, or very little pay, can be a fact of life for many interns. Whether an internship is paid varies from company to company, so if receiving a paycheck is on the top of your list of preferred benefits, ask your program manager to help you find an organization that offers a paid internship.
If you are unable to find a paid internship, you must then weigh the pros and cons. Despite not getting paid, you will still be performing tasks within your field, which can be used to build your resume. Additionally, you will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience and expand your professional network. These are huge advantages to anyone who is just starting out, so if your life circumstances allow you to take on an unpaid internship, you should go for it. Try to look at being paid at your internship as an added bonus, with the other perks and benefits being most important.
The old adage is that everyone has to start somewhere. Whether it’s an entry-level position or an internship, those entering the workforce for the first time will invariably face challenges and experience growing pains. Always remember that each and every individual at an organization plays an important role, and if you’re an intern, take some time this week to give yourself the good ol’ proverbial pat on the back – you’ve earned it!