3 Things to Do When Your Internship Isn’t a Perfect Match

You just wrapped up an internship that was supposed to be PERFECT for someone in your major. You know many students wanted that internship, and you were supposed to love it. But the reality is: your internship wasn’t what you expected, and you weren’t quite satisfied.

So, what now?

This is exactly where I was at a few months ago. As a Political Science major, receiving a Congressional Internship was a dream come true. It was the perfect experience for my resume, and the perfect step in my career path. However, I wrapped up my internship with a feeling of guilt and fear. Everyone that I worked with was kind and helpful, and my experience was very positive overall, but it just didn’t feel like a perfect fit. So, why was I unsatisfied? And what did this mean for my future? 

It’s easy for our thoughts to spiral. However, with some reflection and positivity, you can find the benefits of an internship experience that wasn’t what you thought it would be.

1. Recognize all the benefits of your internship experience.

It can be tough to identify the advantages of your experience. In fact, you may even think it was a waste of time. But this couldn’t be further from the truth! Every experience, no matter how much of a match, comes with many useful benefits.

Reflect on all the skills you gained. These can be added to your resume, and in turn, make you a more qualified candidate for future positions! I spent a lot of time in my internship mastering Microsoft Excel. Now, this is one of the first skills listed on my resume, and I am confident that I could demonstrate this skill to employers!

Be sure to also reflect on the new people you’ve added to your professional network! Even if you never work alongside them again, it will benefit you to keep in contact and stay connected with them on LinkedIn. Your coworkers and supervisors are likely able to speak to your skills and work ethic, so they could even be used as references in the future.

2. Identify which aspects of your internship weren’t satisfying to you.

Because an internship is typically one of your first professional experiences, you will learn a lot about your work style, preferred management style, and favored work environment. These are important in future job searches, as they will allow you to find jobs that align well with your values and preferences

Identify which parts of your internship you didn’t enjoy. Was it the type of work you were doing? The office environment? The management style of your supervisor? Whatever it may be, take note of it. As you search for future internships or jobs, you’ll be much more aware of which positions would be the best fit for you.

My internship was definitely a personal learning experience. My internship was remote, and I quickly realized that my preferred work environment is in-person. Because of this, I began attending my on-campus job in-person, realizing that it made me much more productive and engaged. 

3. Use what you did or didn’t find interesting to determine your next steps.

This is, perhaps, the most important thing that you can gain from your internship. Reflect on the work you did and identify what you did or did not find interesting. From this, you can eliminate various jobs and positions from your radar. This will help narrow down your future job searches and better determine what type of work you’d like to do. From here, you can determine your next steps.

This step was instrumental in my career path. After my internship, I realized I was much more interested in policy-related work than field work and casework. This internship solidified my interest in the legal aspects of government, and I realized I would much rather be in a law firm than a district office. 

After determining this, I took the next major step in my career path and decided to take the LSAT and apply for law school! I am so grateful that my internship solidified my interest in law and made me much more confident in my decision.

Every experience has its benefits, and it’s up to us to discover them.

Though not every internship will be a perfect match, they can serve as very educational experiences to learn about industries and determine your personal preferences. My internship might not have been in the exact field that I wanted, but it allowed me to solidify my interests and confidently take steps in my career path. Not every experience will amount to what you thought it might be, but that’s okay!

By Kendra Richards
Kendra Richards