8

TLDR

I am concerned that I will fail my internship due to unusually high expectations from my manager. It could be due to the very polished impression I gave on my interview.

What steps should I take to better manage expectations and communicate to my coordinator at school to take the existing expectations into account when reviewing my internship so that I do not fail?


I'm currently on a paid internship with a large corporation. The internship is a mandated portion of my course and we are required to meet certain "scores" in our evaluations from our managers in order to "pass".

Prior to this I had approximately 8 months of entry-level coding experience with a small company in my home country (setting up the websites using templates, setting up databases etc.).

When interviewing for the internship I had prepared extensively, researched common questions on the programming language used at the company, looked into common exercises that this company uses at interview etc. and managed to sufficiently impress the interviewer (who is now my manager) that I was immediately offered the internship.

Unfortunately now I have started the actual internship it appears that they are expecting me to be able to perform tasks more suited to a developer rather than an intern, my assigned tasks appear to be of greater difficulty than my fellow interns' who are mainly tasked with learning things rather than producing output.

Now, coming to my main concern, we have a mid-term evaluation in which our program coordinator from school would go to the manager and get their feedback before passing this on in a meeting with us.

I've just had my meeting with my coordinator, which seemed to begin well. He talked about how stuff is going back in school, how was my relocation, how is the new city etc. and how the internship is going. I responded positively to all of this.

We are rated from 1 to 6. And, in order for you to pass the internship subject, you need at least 4. My coordinator fed back that my manager has rated me as 2.

Additional feedback coming from my manager is that he thinks I need to put extra efforts and learn some SQL, he would appreciate it if I can work an extra hour if possible or on weekends as he thinks I need to improve. He apparently also stated that I have only done bug-fixes so far.

Obviously I am very concerned at the possiblity of failing my internship and I am not sure on how best to proceed? I believe the problem may be that my manager has unrealistic expectations of my skill level and if I were held to the same expectations as the other interns that I would be able to cope.

I feel reluctant to approach anyone in the organization. My coordinator/college will believe these managers first than the students as they need to think about the future students' placements as well and this company takes numbers of students from our college.

  • 5
    Rework your question to make it an elevator pitch. As it is now it is a transatlantic cruise speech. (this may also help when you communicate on the job) – L.Dutch Mar 22 '18 at 5:46
  • 6
    The question is clear: OP gives good interview. OP gets far tougher tasks than co-interns. OP is judged much more harshly than co-interns. Are they just scaring him with lower marks to pressure him to be more productive unlike his fellow interns (from whom they expect nothing) or is their low opinion of OP real? – Captain Emacs Mar 22 '18 at 5:46
  • 1
    I appreciate that this is an emotional topic right now, but if you want to get an answer on this site, you should keep out all the emotions when describing your problem. Boil it down to its essence, remove any unnecessary details, and tell us clearly what you'd like to achieve. If more details are needed, people will ask for them in comments, so don't be afraid to 'remove too much'. – Cronax Mar 22 '18 at 12:00
  • 1
    have you asked your manager for some goals to pass your internship? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 22 '18 at 15:44
  • 2
    In your rating, is 1 or 6 the highest? The way you describe your worries it seems like 6 is the highest. But I am asking simply because 1-6 with 4 barely passing, 1 being the highest is a very common school grading system in many European countries. So I was wondering if you simply got a good evaluation with a 2? – dirkk Mar 23 '18 at 14:05
1

From what you describe about your interview process and especially the difference in given tasks between yourself and the other interns at the company it sounds to me as if through your intensive interview preperations you have accidentally (and completely unintentionally) convinced the interviewer (who if I understand correctly is now your manager) that you have a much higher level of skills and experience than you actually do. And it is against this erroneous assumption that he is basing what work he gives your and subsequently his assessment of your performance.

The good news is that, unlike the case of someone bluffing their way into an actual job that they aren't qualified for this is an internship and clearly the level that they think you to be at from your interview is not what they expect of all their interns.

Given that the internship is only four months and your academic grades depend upon this internship you need to act ASAP to get this situation corrected.

I would go and talk to your course coordinator (remember that facilitating successful internships is their job!) and say something like:

Following our review meeting the other day I think I've messed up. When interviewing for this internship I went all-out on preperation and I think that combined with the fact that I had some prior experience has lead my manager to believe that I have a higher skill and experience level than I do and this is leading them to assign me harder tasks than the other interns which I am struggling with. I am absolutely confident that if I were carrying out tasks of the same level as the other interns then I'd be performing well and you'd be seeing much higher scores in the feedback.

I realise that I probably should have said something sooner but I've just been trying to keep up and I didn't realise how my manager was perceiving my work until the review. I really want to make this internship work and turn my scores around but I think I'm going to need some assistance in sorting this out with my manager.

I realise that right now it probably feels like the sky is falling but remember that it's in everyone's interest to get this sorted out - the coordinator want their interns to do well so they can keep placing future ones with the company, your manager wants you to do well since if you can't do the work he thinks you can then he is going to be much better off assigning that to an employee who is better suited, and obviously you'll be in a much better siuation yourself!

10

What you need to do is sit down with the manager you report to in the company and talk about this. Keep it professional and factual.

Tell him you worry that he thinks/ thought too highly of you and that you feel these tasks are above what you can do. I would not make the comparison to the other interns, everybody has different levels of skill and if you were better than them, it would be bad to give you as easy tasks as them.

So focus on you and your tasks, and talk about it with the manager, asking for possible easier tasks to be given to you or to have more follow up/ guidance with the tasks you get now.

0

I think you need to step away from analyzing the interview and worrying about what he thought of you in the interview. That's history now. Also, give up on comparing yourself to other interns. There's a reasonable expectation that different people will get different assignments and respond to them at different levels of capability. Your internship is yours, not theirs.

Focus on two things:

  1. Understanding your boss's expectations. The only way you can do this is by asking. If there isn't an established work management system (ticketing system, bug tracker, project plan) that shows what assignments you're supposed to be working on, make sure there's a list. Write your own list if he doesn't give you one, and ask him to validate that you are focused correctly. Make sure the specific deliverable is understood, as well as timelines and who you're supposed to be interfacing with. It's hard to meet or exceed expectations if they're not clearly defined.

  2. Doing the best work you can. This goes beyond just trying hard. You've been given feedback that you aren't meeting expectations. Ask why you're being rated as a 2 and what it would take to meet a 4 rating. If you're not given specifics, ask for them. Make it clear that you're trying to learn versus trying to disprove your rating of 2. Once you have the feedback, act on it. If you can't figure things out on your own, ask for help - you probably know professors in your program that can help with technical skills, or another intern or developer at your employer. Ask your boss if there's someone in the department who's good at the things you need work on, and if you can speak with that person or work with them to learn.

Internships aren't supposed to be exams. They're supposed to be learning opportunities. And not just opportunities to learn specific technical skills, but opportunities to learn how to behave in a professional setting. A big part of professional behavior is being able to receive constructive feedback, and being able to act on it, in order to improve yourself. Being rated a 2 is a great opportunity to learn these lessons and put some effort into showing your boss and your coordinator that you're able to grow.

If you improve and get your passing grade, congrats. If not, don't think of this as a failure, think of it as a learning opportunity. Incorporate what you've learned into your next internship (selecting where to intern, how to behave in the interview, how to make sure expectations are understood upfront, how to improve on areas where you aren't meeting expectations).

Failing at this internship doesn't mean all hope is lost. Speaking as a hiring manager, I'd rather hire someone who had a failed internship and a second one where they demonstrated that they solved the problems from the first, versus someone who just aced their way through an internship and maybe didn't gain anything from it except some lines on their resume.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.