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Should You Quit Your Internship?


As a career-chasing collegiette, you’re probably doing everything in your power to land the perfect position. That’s exactly why Chloe Adams, an Internet Services Specialist at IBC Bank and recent graduate of The University of Texas at San Antonio, thought she’d struck gold, recieving a full-time offer before graduation. The owners of a small company invited Chloe to intern for them and “transition into full-time” after she finished her finals. Talk about living the dream!

Unfortunately, being forced to work from home while on bedrest made Chloe’s experience a little too nightmarish for comfort. “Being in my last semester of school, working 50 hours a week, almost dying and hating where I worked got the best of me,” she says. “I turned in my two weeks’ that day and have never looked back.”

Exiting an internship takes some serious guts. But is there any glory in giving up this type of opportunity? Keep these questions in mind if you’re ready to call it quits halfway.

Related: 5 Ways to Turn a Negative Internship Around 

1. Are you jumping to conclusions?

If you’re contemplating your internship to the point at which you’d like to consider quitting, then something—or a series of somethings—is clearly bugging you. The key is determining whether fretting over your specific issues is actually worthwhile. Getting used to the ins and outs (and ups and downs) of a new internship doesn’t happen overnight, so you won’t feel fully adjusted to your role until you’ve spent days, weeks or even months filling it. 

The minor concerns you have right off the bat (you’re working long hours, the work doesn’t feel fun, etc.) shouldn’t lead you to throwing in the towel. Madeline Frisk, an Oregon State University senior, agrees with this idea. “Internships are just as much about learning what you don't like in a particular industry as they are about what you do like,” she says. Madeline firmly believes it’s almost always better to “stick with it” than to send yourself packing. 

In fact, Laura Craig, the Associate Director of Career Development at Temple University’s Career Center, would also prefer to see you stay on board. She says that “this allows you to get feedback.” Feedback is one of the most valuable takeaways that internships have to offer, so think twice before sacrificing your opportunity to receive it.

2. Who could you contact?

Making the decision to stick with your internship doesn’t mean that you’ll have to ignore your problems entirely. Buried issues become massive headaches in a heartbeat, so you should put your worries into words and share them with someone. Craig says the best way to go about doing so is to keep in mind “the context in which you’re interning.” 

What does this mean? Well, take a good look at how your position fits into the bigger picture of your company. Larger establishments tend to host multiple interns at once. Additionally, they have Human Resources and other departments designed to make sure things are going smoothly for you. According to Craig, starting a conversation with a department member or fellow intern will provide you with tips for getting through the adjustment period. 

Startups and other small companies don’t boast as many employees as their corporate counterparts. Fortunately, though, interning for one won’t necessarily leave you with a lack of contacts. Search LinkedIn for people who held your position in the past. If you do find a former intern, reach out to ask if he or she would be willing to chat with you over coffee, lunch or, depending on his or her location, whatever’s most convenient. 

3. Have you spoken with your internship coordinator?

As Chloe found out, certain snags are worth noting. Her internship was hard to handle, and it didn’t improve over time. Has your dilemma developed into more than just a week-one worry? If so, you’re ready to bring your boss into the equation.

The thought of saying anything negative to your supervisor might be super intimidating, but he or she won’t know that you’re dealing with drama unless you tell him or her. East Carolina University junior Megan Downing, for example, saw the halfway point of her internship as a sign that it was time to talk to her boss. “After the first two months, I felt that I wasn't learning anything new,” Megan says. She spoke up, and, although it resulted in her leaving her internship, the conversation made Megan’s decision a more informed one. 

One of the trickiest things about talking to an internship coordinator is knowing what to say first. As bothered as you may be, you’ll still want to maintain your professionalism. Craig suggests starting the discussion with “I’ve been having a great time so far, but…” Although you’re approaching your supervisor because you haven’t had a great time, this opening line will help to ease him or her into the truth bomb you’re about to drop.

4. What are the consequences of quitting?

Chatting up your coordinator should clear the air. As Megan found out, though, that’s not always the case. She says her boss was “very difficult to work for,” so their discussion didn’t encourage her to keep going with her internship.

Quitting was not a damaging move for Megan. According to Craig, your ability to quit without consequence will depend on the specific details of your job description. If there are no contracts or binding obligations involved, then it’s possible that the only repercussion of walking away would be losing the ability to use your supervisor as a reference. 

On the other hand, Craig points out that the agreements you made and the papers you signed when you first took the internship may stand in your way. “Agreeing to do it [the internship] for credit means that you won’t earn the credits if you quit,” she says. Giving up credit hours could set you back both academically and financially. Therefore, the credits—as well as any other agreements you may have made—will stand against you, should you decide to leave. 

5. Is there room for improvement at your workplace?

Unless your situation calls for drastic measures, it’s likely that quitting would be more hurtful than helpful. Luckily, there are totally doable ways to take care of the bad vibes you’re feeling. Help yourself out by working toward transforming your work environment into one that gets you excited and makes your internship finally feel like it’s worth having. 

Craig says you’ll want to kick off this transformation by pinpointing the positive qualities of your position. This might seem like a difficult thing to do because, after all, negativity is what led you to this step. However, exploring your options could introduce you to a better path.

To find your footing, Craig suggests setting goals that relate to the options you discover and acting on them. Madeline gives a great example of this. “Shadow another employee on off days to get more of an idea of a variety of jobs available to you,” she says. Taking advantage of the different departments within your company will expand your horizons and, hopefully, introduce you to a role that reignites your passion!

Deciding whether or not it’s time to kick your internship to the curb is the opposite of easy. After all, nobody wants to be known as a quitter. Although many scenarios are solvable, evaluating your experience will let you know if any red flags hold a permanent place in your intern space. 

How would you feel about pulling the plug on an internship? Share your side in the comments!


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