by Rosanne Lurie
If you are paying close attention to Career Services (and likely others) you have probably gotten the message that internships are the hottest ticket to a career. Many, many Penn students pursue internships during the course of their time at school; and with great success, as internships often provide valuable experiences and connections. But what happens when your internship was a dud? What if your responsibilities bored you, were confusing or too hard, or your supervisor was a difficult or indifferent boss?
We know that supervisors who were not good managers, or work experiences that were less than positive, are a tricky subject when you are actively networking or interviewing. How should you handle the topic of a difficult work experience while going forward in your job search? Here are a few constructive approaches:
1) What can you say about yourself handling a difficult situation, if the supervisor you had did not manage you the way you would have wished or the position was not a good fit? How did you meet the challenge or do problem solving? What were you able to do to improve the situation?
2) How have people in your network handled their challenging or negative experiences? Learning from others can help you manage your own take on your situation. Here’s one person’s response to a bad internship http://internships.about.com/od/internstories/a/rbottnerstory.htm.
3) When in a job interview, NEVER say outright negatives about your internship or blame your former supervisor for your troubles. A prospective employer will assume you might be a difficult employee, or possibly speak about them negatively, and will not be inclined to risk hiring you. Also, blaming others can indicate that you aren’t taking responsibility for your own actions.
4) Consider carefully the qualities you would want in a manager. When you are interviewing, communicate this in a positive way. “Once a project is explained to me, I can work very independently;” rather than “ I don’t like it when I feel like my boss is breathing down my neck.” Be aware of which environments will help you excel.
5) If you need a reference, but are not sure that a former supervisor will give you a good one, then ask another coworker to be your reference – someone who will speak about your accomplishments. Coach them about which of your skills to emphasize – documents such as your resume and descriptions of jobs can help.
In sum, there are ways that you can respond to bad experiences that offer better outcomes than dwelling on them. By managing your perceptions, evaluating your responses, demonstrating your skills when faced with challenges, and identifying supportive individuals to serve as references, you will sail forward in your career.
More advice can be found in these useful links: