Ask the intern: How to fill your time at your internship
Hi Laetitia, I did an internship last summer and I wasn’t given much work to do. I actually got quite bored because I felt like I had nothing to do at work and I didn’t know what to do with my time. I’m worried this will be the same with the internship I have lined up in Madrid… Any advice? Thanks. Ahmed.
Hi Ahmed. I can definitely empathise with you. I did an internship in August last year and there was not that much to do initially as everyone was on holiday. In a professional working environment you will soon find that you will not necessarily have a steady stream of work. Your colleagues will give you work when they have some, so there will be busier and quieter periods. Moreover, sometimes your colleagues may forget to delegate tasks as they are busy themselves. When you find yourself with some downtime at the office it can be tempting to log into Facebook or Youtube while waiting for more work to come your way. However, it is a much better learning experience to take some initiative and use your time wisely.
What to do when you feel like you’ve got nothing to do at work
1. Ask your colleagues
If your supervisor hasn’t given you any work to do, they have probably just forgotten and are not ignoring you. If after you ask they still have nothing, then approach your other colleagues. You can either go up to them, or email them if they look busy as this way they will have a record of your offer. Politely ask if you can help with anything, without hounding them with too many demands. Don’t be afraid to ask; it will demonstrate that you are taking initiative and that you are interested in the company. Your colleagues will most likely have some tasks for you to do but perhaps have not had the time to delegate them. They will be very happy to offload some work!
2. Get ahead on small tasks
As I mentioned above, work often comes in waves. Some days you’ll find yourself snowed under and others you might feel like you have little or nothing to do at work. Use your quiet time to get through smaller, menial tasks. For example, organize your inbox, reply and send out pending emails. It is much easier to manage your tasks with a cleaner inbox, so you will thank yourself for this later. You can also file your documents on your computer, and update your calendar. These little things will go a long way and will make life much easier when you receive lots of work. I would also suggest cleaning and decorating your workspace. If you will be at the same desk for the duration of your internship you may want to add some photos, pen holders, and inspirational quotes that will personalize your space. Additionally, if you like to work with music, then use this time to create an ‘office playlist’ on Spotify which you can also share with fellow interns and colleagues.
3. Update your CV or resume
Use the office atmosphere to get in the zone and update your CV or resume. You can start by adding your current internship to your resume and updating your job description. If you have not yet cut down your CV, then start by trying to get all your information onto one page. It can be hard to tailor your personal information to a potential company when applying as you have not yet experienced the office culture and environment. Now that you are fully immersed in it, observe the behaviour of your colleagues and focus your CV on the motives and attributes of this company. It will make a good draft or template for when you apply to jobs in the future. Similarly, you can update or create a Linkedin profile as this will be useful for networking later on in your professional career. Start building Linkedin connections with work colleagues and use their profiles as a template for yours.
4. Research the company
Brushing up on your knowledge of the company will never go amiss. Note down key information and focus on the company’s vision and goals. In future meetings, tasks or projects, your boss will be very impressed to see that you are up-to-date on the company and that you share the same motives. You can even start brainstorming new strategies and ideas to put forward to your boss or supervisor. This will show them that you are not only interested in the company, but also invested in making it grow. Another part of researching the company is knowing the people that work there. Try and spend some more time with your colleagues by organizing after-work drinks or offering to do a coffee run. You can also strike up a conversation if you see some of your colleagues making the most of their downtime in the common area.
5. Research travel or weekend plans
The great thing about doing an internship abroad is that there is so much to do outside the office. Why not spend some time researching what there is to do around the city? Check out Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet for recommendations on sights and restaurants to visit, and activities to do. You could also check for weekend trips away as well as the cost of transport. You could even go the extra mile and check for fun group activities to do with your colleagues!
I hope this helps. It is completely normal to have some time to yourself during your internship, just make sure that you use your time wisely!
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Photo 3. based on The Intern Group.