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What to do if you only fetch coffee as an intern?

By: Priyanka Jaisinghani

Special to The Chronicle

After months of soul-searching for that perfect internship, you’re finally one pinky toe into the real world with an internship. The problem — it’s your worst nightmare.

You are a regular at Starbucks and can now balance more than three coffees in your hand while trying to maneuver your way through traffic in the city. Instead of actively learning new skills and enhancing your knowledge, you are now the unofficial coffee runner.

You’re stuck in this internship because somehow you know it will add experience to your resume. You can’t just call it quits, but you still want to find a way around it and make connections to help you get to that next level. The question now is: how do you make the most out of an internship gone wrong?

1) Sit down with your boss: There is no good time to tell your boss that you want to do more than see Starbucks, but you need to gather up your courage to go ask them. The whole purpose of an internship is to gain new skills and hone in the skills you already have. Talk to your boss about the goals you want to accomplish in your internship and what new skills you want to learn — in other words, get on the same page.

2) Shadow: You may be seeing coffee and doing remedial tasks most of the time, but you have the right to shadow other departments and figure out the inner workings of the organization. Find out how all the different departments work together seamlessly (or not). Expose yourself to the overlying idea of all departments and what their daily tasks are and how they do it. This is especially beneficial if you are undecided in what you want to do in the future. By shadowing, you can find that you are drawn to the workings of another department and may learn that you want to work in that field in the future.

3) Show initiative: You may find that you have a lot of free time and things could sometimes get dull. Don’t just stick to your department; venture out and find other employers within the workplace. Go up to them and introduce yourself. Engage with other employers and ask them if they need any assistance on anything they’re working on. Some of them may reject your kind offer, but to the company this shows you have initiative to venture out of the box. You may find that someone else will give you work that will expand your knowledge.

4) Network: You may just be an intern now, but your future aspirations lie in greater roles. In the long run, many of you will want a swanky office with a fancy title. Now is the perfect time to network and make connections to make it easier to get to where you want to be. There is usually a head to every department or someone who is influential. Email them and ask if you can sit down with them for a couple of minutes to ask them a couple of questions (make sure you actually come up with a couple of questions). Most employers won’t be expecting this and many of them would be happy to meet with you. This is the perfect place to make a connection and make a lasting impression. In the future, they could be your key to a full time job only because you took the time out to find out more about them.


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