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I am a college student on a cooperative internship, and I have had quite a rough time. I got a job I applied for without intending to take because the pay was good. The job was in a more mathematical area of computer science, but I was later denied the position for security reasons. The company that offered me the job found me another job that has nothing to do with anything I am interested in. I took the job because I could not return to school, and I didn't want to flip burgers for a semester.

I have become increasingly discouraged by the experience and have no motivation to continue the work I do. I spend alot of time aimlessly clicking through things because the projects I am handed are undocumented messes, and I don't have the presence of mind to get through them, but I have had no indication that I am less productive than most of the other programmers.

I am in a bad spot, because I have decided to switch career paths toward a more scientific discipline and away from computer science, and now this coop is even more out of place on my resume.

However, I have unofficially committed my time until the end of June. I would like to use this experience to open doors in my actual field of interest, but I am not sure what can be done, or what potential employers/graduate admissions would think of it. As far as I can tell, my boss is satisfied with my work, but I will not have any major achievements when I finish this coop because I keep getting moved from one maintenance/bugfix/repair job to another.

The concrete question here is: Should I stay until the time I said I would or spend the time taking classes from community college to prepare for my major & career change? What can I do to maximize my long-term benefit from this experience when it is not related to my interests or career path?

Should I tell my boss that I am uninterested in the work I do, even though he offered me a job because I was in a bad spot after my first job fell through? He might be able to give me different work, but at most this would last 2.5 months.

  • You should read this answer. – enderland May 1 '13 at 17:36
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    This question is a variation of ""How do I learn to be a..." which has been declared off topic in our FAQ. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 1 '13 at 17:36
  • Also, read this answer which is very related, and if you have not talked about the questions in the list with your manager you should do this. – enderland May 1 '13 at 17:38
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    @enderland thanks, I read both posts and have decided to talk to my manager about finding more relevant projects. – Quantum Spaghetti May 1 '13 at 18:14
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    @AmyBlankenship I wanted to know if it was worth it on my resume to stick it out, so thanks for addressing that. I have declared to my employer that the end-date of my coop is June/early July. – Quantum Spaghetti May 1 '13 at 18:42
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My advice:

I would do your best at your current job. Unless you're absolutely miserable and can't live with it, finish your co-op, and do the best you can at it.

Your concern about "polluting" your resume is unwarranted. Simply having a co-op is an extreme positive when I'm looking at new college hires.

The fact that it's in a tangential field is fine. Co-ops/internships are one of the things you do in school to make sure that what you're studying is what you really want to do.

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There are other things to learn in an internship than technology, learn these. The first is how to be persistent and successful at whatever tasks you are given whether you like them or not. Throughout your career, you will often have to work on things you would rather not. If you do a bad job on them or blow them off, then people are not going to want to give you more interesting tasks.

You can learn about how to work in a team environment and the professional skills associated with any programming such as unit testing, source control, code review, refactoring.

You can learn how to deal with other professionals such as how to talk to your boss, how to speak up in meetings, how to sell your ideas, how to navigate the basics of office politics. You can learn how to keep your boss up-to-date on your project status and how to ask for help or how to report a problem. You can learn how to effectively work as part of team and even a bit about project management. You might even get the chance to learn how to work with difficult people.

All of these are useful skills no matter what type of job you pursue after graduation. So stop feeling sorry for yoursef that the work is boring, there is plenty to learn that will come in useful later.

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