What to Do When Your Summer Experience Isn’t Going Well

You are a couple of weeks into your internship, research experience or summer position and things aren’t quite what you expected? Maybe your work is too challenging or it includes mundane tasks such as filing and making copies? No need to give up quite yet. Here are a couple of tips to help you turn things around and get the most out of your experience.

What to consider before you leave

While some of your work may include tasks such as making copies, brewing coffee or filing paperwork (which are part of almost every job), it is important to take a look at the overall picture before you decide to leave your position. Think about how you can turn parts of your work into learning experiences and offer to take on more challenging work. For others, your work might be too demanding and you at times feel overwhelmed. If that is the case, ask your colleagues or other co-interns for advice and seek out help from your supervisor. You will find that people are usually willing to help and want you to succeed. Taking a step back and evaluating the entire experience is key and will help you avoid leaving your position pre-maturely.

How to handle a bad summer experience – 5 things you can do

First things first. If you feel that your internship or research experience isn’t going well, write down what you don’t like. That said, make sure you are realistic and reasonable about the things you write down. Remember that there are always a couple of things you won’t like in most every job you have.

Next steps:

  1. Meet with your supervisor. Talk about what is and isn’t going well and let them know what you’d like to change about your work and where you see room for growth and improvement. This list may include work responsibilities, a change of hours, more or less work, or more challenging work. Be prepared when you talk to your supervisor. Keeping a daily log can help you feel well-prepared for this meeting.
  2. Make friends at work. Reach out to your co-workers, fellow interns and colleagues and get to know them. You may consider seeking out after-work social events to get to know them and the industry as well as work culture better. This will help you feel less alone and more engaged and connected at work. Want to learn how to better connect with your co-workers? Check out this helpful article!
  3. Find a work mentor. When your internship, research position or job isn’t going as expected and you are struggling, it can be really helpful to find a professional mentor. This person could but does not have to be your supervisor. A good, caring mentor will help you grow professionally and personally and can help you turn your internship around.
  4. Don’t take things personally. People are different and chances are you might not like everyone at work. If your co-worker or fellow intern is annoying and you would rather not work with them, this might be a good learning opportunity and also help you be prepared for the future. It is important to accept people who have different personalities and learn how best to work with them (even the annoying ones 🙂)
  5. Take initiative. If you feel that your work is not challenging enough and you complete all of your tasks in no time, show that you are ready to take it to the next level. Approach your supervisor and show them that you take your work seriously and are prepared to take on more challenging projects, even if this means putting in some extra time. If they don’t have an additional project, propose a project to them that would add value to the institution. Make sure to complete additional tasks (assigned to you or self-assigned) on time and take them extra seriously. Adding more advanced tasks will also help you build your skill set and it will look good on your resume.

Your Internship Doctor 🙂


Contact Victoria Wolff, M.Ed., Assistant Director for Internship Programs, who is responsible for internship program management and oversight in the Student Engagement Center at Whitman College (wolffv@whitman.edu).

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