It is no surprise to anyone that many employers hire underpaid (or unpaid) student interns to handle mundane tasks at their company — tasks that no mid-career employee would want to waste their time on.
The problem is, while you (the new intern) are looking for an exciting experience that will get you ahead in your career track, a lot of employers just want you to get the dirty jobs done. They only care about their bottom line.
Hiring interns is often the decision of one busy manager who, overwhelmed with a lot of office tasks, decides to hire an intern to help keep the workload manageable. Not every manager is an HR expert. And oftentimes, they might be unintentionally just setting you up for failure. Not all of those engineering or finance managers know how to successfully recruit an intern and make sure the intern can see their tasks through to completion.
Find yourself interning this summer? Here are ways your boss might set you up for failure in your new job. Make sure you keep an eye out for these situations — and avoid them if you can.
1. Vague job responsibilities
You might think that you will be doing everything that listed in the job description, but that is far from the norm. Many unpaid internship positions list alluring job responsibilities and a fancy position title to make up for the fact that you won't be paid a dime for your hard work.
Big and small companies alike do not often let first-time interns play with their sales pitches or make big presentations for their investors. Period.
So make sure you and your employers agree and know what you are going to do during your internship. If you do not act preemptively, you might be just spending your summer watching funny videos on YouTube. Good luck trying to make that sound interesting on your resume.
2. No orientation
Orientation is the first thing that you learn in HR 101 if you are an HR major, but it's something that you might miss if this your first or second professional work experience.
It is important that you are introduced to the people in the office and told who does what and who manages whom. You will need that whenever a problem arises.
If we come back again to the hypothesis that you were hired by that one busy manager and you know only that person, they won't help you that much with your problems because they will be busy themselves.
If you don't have an orientation that allows you to meet everyone who works in your organization, you won't be able to get help when you need it from people in the nearby offices.
3. No training
If you're hired and your boss expects you to instantly know everything that you must be doing, that's a red flag. If you knew everything about your internship, you wouldn't be applying for an internship. You would be applying for an actual money-providing job.
Make sure before you sign the contract that your boss or employer has some kind of training program that will help you learn how to do your job. Or at least make sure that there is someone willing to spend some time and effort to show you how you are supposed to do your work. If you don't raise a finger, your boss will just assume that you know everything. If you don't get the job done in time, the blame is on you. If you don't feel that you're contributing to the company just because you don't know how to do things or work on that super-complicated new software, you are probably not going anywhere and will get frustrated. You're a bright kid and you came to your new company to learn. That's the definition of an internship.
4. Doesn't set clear goals
A lot of bosses do hire interns but never really check with them after the first or second week of work. Interns are left to do the "work" with no real direction. It gets to the point where you don't even know what you should be doing and why you're doing this or that. Worse, if no one is aware of what you are actually doing, you are going to start feeling that your hard work is not appreciated. It's the worst feeling ever when you start a new job. Nobody cares about what you do, simply because they simply don't know what you are doing.