By | Abhijit Bhaduri | Founder, Abhijit Bhaduri & Associates
During the course of the next couple of months several of you undergoing internships (or summer training) will experience what it means to work inside an organization. Some may be enthralled with the projects they are working on, while some might be disappointed because the internship is not what they imagined. I’ll tell you from my personal experience, not all internships are amazing. What if your internship is in the ‘non-amazing’ category? You still need to get your grades and you still want to learn something.
What can you do if the project that you have been assigned is not the ideal one that you were hoping to work on? Or if the mentor assigned to you is disengaged or unhelpful?
Make the most of your internship
What can you do if the project that you have been assigned is not the ideal one that you were hoping to work on? Or if the mentor assigned to you is disengaged or unhelpful? The project and the quality of the mentor you work with are the two variables that impact the internship experience the most. What if one of the two variables is not what you expected. Here is what you can do about it.
Problem 1: Your mentor is great. But the project you got is lousy.
Solution: Take initiative. Identify other problems that need to be addressed.
This is by far one of the most common disappointments interns have to grapple with: Great company, but a lousy, unstructured, and vague project.
The company I interned with many years ago was a very aspirational employer so when they offered me an internship for eight weeks, I could not believe my luck. When I showed up on my first day, I discovered that I hadn’t been assigned a project. After sulking for a day, I realized that wasn’t going to help me, my grades, or my non-existent project.
I did two things: I spoke to the other employees on the team to see if I could pitch in to help them out. As we all know, no one refuses when an intern asks if he can help.
Additionally, I also checked with my college mates who were interning at other companies to check if there were any interesting problems that would be relevant to my organization. I shortlisted four ideas and wrote out a brief on each one of them to explain why the project would be useful to the organization. Guess what! One of those projects (with slight modifications) was finally chosen for me to work on.
Problem 2: Your mentor or project guide seems disengaged.
Solution: Bridge the gap by creating a board of advisors.
Most interns I meet always complain that they wish they had more facetime with their mentors. The best mentors I have met are the ones who review not only the progress of the project but are also nice enough to share insights on what is happening in the industry and what the organization is doing to stay competitive.
If you didn’t get lucky with your mentor, create your own board of advisors. Set up meetings over lunch. Leverage your colleagues to set up meetings with other leaders in the organizations and preferably across different functions. Getting diverse points of view from these conversations can be a very enriching experience.
One of my professors had advised me to treat the internship like an extended interview. That really helped me since I had no prior work experience. I used the internship to learn about the business and the company’s culture. Here is my piece of advice. Tell yourself repeatedly what I think INTERN stands for: I Need The Experience, Responsibilities, and Network. The positive reinforcement helps making the most of your internship.
Have you had a bad experience as an intern? How did you deal with it?? Pl share your experience
First published by HBR Ascend dated 5 June 2018 <see original post>