How To Tell You’re in a Bad Internship

by Nov 7, 2016

Internships are like relationships – some are great, some are… well, not so great. Undertaking an internship is basically a must these days, if you want to stand out. Unfortunately, not all internships are sunshine and rainbows, and once you start one it might be difficult to realise it’s a dud. So to help you out, here are a few warning signs that could indicate you’re in a bad internship!

You’re only assigned to menial tasks

Internships are designed to help you grow, so being asked to take out the trash, do endless filing or continuous coffee runs might not be much help in developing your professional skills. If your internship isn’t giving you any meaningful work, and you’re not being allowed to develop your skills, it might be time to have a chat with your manager about moving on to some more fulfilling tasks.

You’re discouraged to ask questions

While you’ll likely be coming into your internship with your own set of skills and knowledge, you can’t be expected to know everything. Asking questions is one of the fastest ways to build new knowledge, so if your supervisor and colleagues keep brushing off your questions, then that’s not very helpful.

If things are super busy, try writing down a list of less urgent questions to ask at a quieter time. However, if the question you have is directly related to you completing your work, it’s time to utilise those communication skills and have a chat with the people you’re working with. Ask if they mind sparing five minutes to go over what you’re having trouble with. If no one’s willing to help, talk to your manager and they should be able to ensure someone is available to help you out.

You haven’t learnt anything new

So you’ve been stuck into your internship for a few weeks now, but you still haven’t learnt any new skills? That sucks! How’re you supposed to work on your professional development if you’re doing all this work without learning anything? If this is you, then you might have a bit of a problem.

Have a look at what you’re working on, and think about whether there are any industry-relevant skills related to your work that you’d like to develop. Then schedule a meeting with your manager and have a chat about what you’d like to work on. Depending on the workplace, you may even be able to approach one of your colleagues who has a skill you’d like to learn, and see if they can help you out!

Your ideas are not valued

If you’re being actively discouraged from contributing your ideas in meetings, or in the projects you’re working on, it can be pretty disheartening. While you may be new or young, you’re doing an internship to learn and provide a service to the organisation you’re with, so being shut down can make you feel a bit undervalued. Like Huhman has noted, ‘As an intern, if you’re unable to share your ideas and opinions, how will you learn how to contribute to discussions in your future job?

So, accumulate some ideas and try approaching the people who are working on the same project as you, to see what they think! If you’re still not getting anywhere, try sending an email to the relevant colleagues, listing your suggestions. Weirdly, sometimes people are more receptive to ideas if they’re in written form, especially if it’s a particularly busy time at work. Still no luck? It’s time for another chat with your manager, to express your concern!

What to do now?

If you’re after some more advice on how to ace the internship experience, or what to do once you find yourself in a bad internship, check out these helpful links below!


Remember to stay as positive and respectful as possible – you never know how far an optimistic attitude can take you. You’ve got this!

Featured image courtesy of Pexels.

By Mia Casey

By Mia Casey


Mia is a Sydney-based copywriter and content creator, who ran the UTS Careers Blog for five years since its conception in 2016.
Her freelance work focuses on branding development and helping companies create a cohesive identity narrative tailored for each of their platforms.
She enjoys piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.