An Internship’s Other Purpose

Internships serve many purposes: to expose you to potential careers, to give you work experience, to help you build professional skills, for network purposed, and to help you decide exactly what you want to do … right?

[RELATED: Tips for Landing a Last-Minute Internship]

Well, internships also serve another purpose–to show you what you don’t want to do. There is a difference between hating your internship and dreading coming to work, and simply realizing this is not the type of work you want to do for the rest of your life. My only advice for those who are offered a job they can’t stand is to be thankful for the opportunity, graciously rescind the offer, and be proactive in securing opportunities that better suit you.

Realizing early on that the internship’s requirements and assignments do not align with your goals and passions is beneficial. Understand that most internships will involve busy work and menial tasks, but it is up to the intern to be ambitious in acquiring meaningful work. When you are given assignments with substance and still aren’t stimulated, that internship may not best suit your potential. This realization helps you ‘X’ out what you are not interested in. Again, this is beneficial. Unless you are the person who’s set on what you want to do, there are so many options.

If you want to go into business, there is entrepreneurialism, marketing, management consulting, trade, and law. Internships you don’t connect with can help you narrow down your potential career path. For example, an internship at a medium-sized, somewhat well-known company may have you working on a little bit of everything: marketing, management consulting, and communications. But you’ve discovered that you’re most engaged when working on marketing assignments. Wonderful! You are finding your passion and showing your supervisor and the other executives that this is an area where you blossom, and this is why they need your marketing skills to propel the company.

It is imperative to still fulfill the requirements of the whole internship, but allow yourself the opportunity to share ideas with your supervisor. There’s nothing worse than having an intern that does not do what is expected of them. If you are working in the editorial department with a current degree track in advertising, take it upon yourself to construct an advertising project of new ideas and ways the company can excel in advertising. Remember, even if you are not fond of the internship, that should be all the more reason to create something you do like that will also help the company.

Also, go to a meeting you think you have no interest in. (It could become interesting!) Talk to people, research something, ask your supervisor about other work/internship opportunities. They might just know someone with your same interests. This will disguise your dispassion for your current work, and the higher-ups will notice you and appreciate your thought process and ability.

Overall, the best way to avoid an internship that doesn’t fully engage you is to be proactive in searching for internship that does. Every media major’s dream is to intern with Viacom, or Goldman Sachs if you’re a business major. But these programs are highly competitive so having a solid Plan B is critical. After all, an internship is meant to give you a taste of a particular career, to teach you things about yourself and help you make smart career decisions. Knowing that you aren’t very happy where you are opens your mind to other careers you might be better suited for.

–written by Fatima Bangura