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I am currently a Mechanical Engineering student interning with a large automotive company. I am part of the Co-Op program with my school which basically means I intern for a semester then go to school for a semester (summers as well) rotating until I graduate. The goal is to work up a relationship with the company so they don’t have to introduce new interns into their company culture, allow the interns to work for extended periods of time (full semesters instead of just summers), and possibly offer a full time position upon completion of the program. When I was hired as a freshman they said I would have the chance to move around and try different positions but I didn’t really realize that I would be working within the same department the entire time just doing slightly different tasks.

I have really not been thrilled with the roles the company has placed me in. My days consist of busy work that could be completed by technicians or people without degrees at all, no offense meant here but I am paying a lot of money to study engineering and I would like to use the skills I have been learning in my classes. I also haven’t learned any technical skills on the job such as new software that could benefit me in the future. I still have a couple more work sessions with the company before my Co-Op is officially over. There are a lot of things I like about the company and I could definitely see myself working here but the department I am in feels like a dead end career wise.

My main question is, should I stay with the company through the completion of the program? I am getting paid well for someone my age and having 10k in savings as a college student is a huge plus. One thing I am afraid of is what I will say when interviewers for my next job ask me about my experience. There really isn’t much to say, I am doing all that I am told to do and there isn’t much room to innovate or take on other tasks. Will future employers look down upon me because the work I was asked to do wasn’t technical at all? As I said before I like the company, just not the department. Will I look bad to the company as a whole if I resign early? If I resign from this program I will not be able to intern with this company, in any department, until after my degree is completed (school policy). The department has also already begun to show interest in hiring me upon graduation which I am definitely against.

Note- I am not able to switch departments without quitting and then being rehired to a new department which isn't allowed because of school policy

closed as off-topic by IDrinkandIKnowThings, DarkCygnus, Snow, JasonJ, Jim G. Nov 15 '17 at 7:11

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions asking for advice on a specific choice, such as what job to take or what skills to learn, are difficult to answer objectively and are rarely useful for anyone else. Instead of asking which decision to make, try asking how to make the decision, or for more specific details about one element of the decision. (More information)" – IDrinkandIKnowThings, DarkCygnus, Snow, JasonJ, Jim G.
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    This question could be reduced to a lot fewer sentences. It meanders a little. If your only complaint is that it's boring, I'd stick with it, if only for the money. Companies like to see that you can show up at the same time to the same place for several years. As for your internship, yea, sometimes you're on the team building rockets, sometimes you're pushing the broom. It's the nature of internships. – JFA Nov 8 '17 at 2:13
  • Its just that this will be the only place I intern throughout my undergrad if I stay on. My main concern is that I will look bad to other employers for sticking with an internship that I didn't do any actual "engineering" at. Is this not the case? Sorry for length, I wanted to fully explain the situation. – rinamon Nov 8 '17 at 2:20
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    Learn how to walk before you run. – scaaahu Nov 8 '17 at 3:28
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    My recommendation is to not compare yourself with others. It is a losing battle. No matter how much you try, nothing is the 'same' in terms of family background, upbringing, social connections, thinking paradigm. I can easily say that X>Y if X is 2 and Y is 1. But it is difficult to claim Bob > Anne. There are situations where Bob will be more effective and Anne in others. Given that life is a single-shot game (pending religious beliefs) you make the best with what you got. Compare to what you were a year ago to see if you are truly 'letting yourself down'. – Frank FYC Nov 8 '17 at 6:54
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    "My days consist of busy work that could be completed by technicians or people without degrees at all" That says more about the real value of your education than theirs. – pmf Nov 8 '17 at 9:11
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My days consist of busy work that could be completed by technicians or people without degrees at all, no offense meant here but I am paying a lot of money to study engineering and I would like to use the skills I have been learning in my classes.

Never place yourself above those who have different backgrounds. You will be surprised as to what you can learn from "people without degrees at all". If you truly meant "no offense" then you would not have made the statement at all.

I also haven’t learned any technical skills on the job such as new software that could benefit me in the future.

There are 'formal' skills that you can learn and there are 'informal' skills. The distinction here is that you are also learning about how a company operates: interpersonal and social interactions, a small 'slice' of the the day to day business of an automotive company. If you believe that all you need to 'make a car' are engineers and machines, you are sorely mistaken.

There are a lot of things I like about the company and I could definitely see myself working here but the department I am in feels like a dead end career wise.

So you ask if you can participate in higher-level discussions, ask if you can shadow your supervisor, shadow another employee who works in research and design. But first, you need to demonstrate that you are skilled and knowledgeable of the basics. In this case, the basics are 'busy work'. As you build your reputation, you can ask that the next time you intern at the company you can work at a dept. of your choosing. Everyone needs to earn their stripes and slog through the mud.

should I stay with the company through the completion of the program?... Will I look bad to the company as a whole if I resign early?

You gave your word. Do you want to be seen as someone who quits because things are boring? Imagine who will hire such a person.

One thing I am afraid of is what I will say when interviewers for my next job ask me about my experience. There really isn’t much to say, I am doing all that I am told to do and there isn’t much room to innovate or take on other tasks. Will future employers look down upon me because the work I was asked to do wasn’t technical at all?

In one of my internships I picked up trash from different locations, sorted each piece of trash, not bags of trash, but handful by handful from the entire university into 4 bins (compost, recycling, paper, and trash) on a conveyer belt for three to four hours per shift outdoors, rain or shine. Did I like it? Hell no. Did I finish the terms of my employment? You bet I did. Before the term ended, I made it clear that I was not interested in returning next semester and that my supervisor should hire someone to replace me.

Part of the purpose of internships is to also determine what you don't want to do in life. Looks like you got a taste of that today.

  • This is my third of five sessions with the same department and will be my only work experience as an undergrad. The company is so large that different departments operate as different entities. To gain a position in a new department I would have to quit, reapply, and interview with a different manager (not allowed by school policy). – rinamon Nov 8 '17 at 3:25
  • If you believe that there is no 'future' with this dept. then you said it yourself. "quit, reapply, and interview with a different manager". If school policy prohibits this, then there is nothing you can do but to ask if you can get assigned different tasks within your organization. – Frank FYC Nov 8 '17 at 3:31
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    "Part of the purpose of internships is to also determine what you don't want to do in life. Looks like you got a taste of that today." - really important thing here. Sometimes you have to experience it to know for sure what you really like and what you don't. – DarkCygnus Nov 8 '17 at 15:58
  • @rinamon Even if school policy generally doesn't allow it, that doesn't mean it's a law of the universe. Try talking to the appropriate people in your school and see what can be done in your situation, more likely than not they'll be happy to help you. – Cronax Nov 9 '17 at 15:51
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work that could be completed by technicians or people without degrees at all

Just wanted to point out that, as long as you have not graduated, you are in fact a person without a degree at all. Add to that, that an interns time is usually rather cheap, it actually makes sense to give you the "pedestrian" tasks.

If you are unhappy with your current work situation, I encourage you try to change it within your current organisation first. If you have exhausted all options and still find your employer can´t make you an compelling offer, then it is time to move on. Almost every job will have some elements you won´t like - learn how to negotiate and get the things you want, and this will help you more in your life than any short-term engineering experience!

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To complement Daniel and Frank excellent answers, I'd like to insist on a specific point : it is important to understand the job of others. You can't make a proper industrial design if you have no clue on how production workers are actually working.

That's why spending quite a few months doing their job is so important. I know this French automotive supplier company where every new hire, engineer, accountant, commercial, etc., begins by 3 weeks on the production line (or at least did 19 years ago). And that's not random.

You have to understand those people's job to do yours properly. It's long and boring. And very useful.

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