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Between 2014 and 2015, as part of my Bachelor's degree, I took an internship with a local arm of a globally recognised technology company. This was a bad experience for everybody involved:

  • I was a bad employee, in no small part because I was going untreated for worsening clinical depression and crippling anxiety due to a bad experience with an unsympathetic GP at the beginning of the year
  • They were a bad employer, a fact I was initially too inexperienced to recognise but soon realised both from how I was treated and what I saw and heard about the treatment of other employees.

Now I am looking to apply for jobs (I have had to repeat my final year at least once for health reasons and may do so again depending on results- in either case I am not applying on the strength of an actual degree qualification). I don't see a huge amount of point in putting this experience on my CV (If the company is even still operating with any of its staff from three years ago I very much doubt my ex-manager will be inclined to provide a reference) but I am concerned that because the internship was a required part of my degree (to the point that it is referenced in the pathway's title), employers in the local area will know this and will ask about it.

If they do, I am put in the unenviable position of having to either disparage myself as a worker or my former employer as a business, both of which I fear will create a negative impression. What is my best recourse in this situation?

Edit: This question was tagged as being a duplicate of a question about a similar situation regarding a prior job. The two are similar concerns but I think this question is different because the ensconcement of the internship in the degree pathway makes it potentially impossible for me to avoid discussing it if interviewers derive its existence, even if I decide ultimately to expunge it from my CV, etc.

marked as duplicate by gnat, IDrinkandIKnowThings, Michael Grubey, GOATNine, Elmy Aug 30 '18 at 5:48

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Even though your personal experience has been a negative one on your curriculum vitae your internship represents valuable work experience. Just focus on the facts of what technologies you worked with and what kind of problems you were solving.

If you are asked about it in an interview you should also focus on those facts. If in an interview you find yourself unable to avoid talking about a negative aspect, you should focus on what you learned from it or how you would handle that situation differently in the future.

  • That's fair. What should I do about references, though? The internship company won't want to give one, but they'd be the most obvious choice for the new employer looking for one, instead of my dissertation supervisor. Seems pretty unavoidable to reveal how bad the experience was. – CleverCrumbish Aug 26 '18 at 15:44
  • @CleverCrumbish - You may be overthinking this. Focus on the things this answer mentioned and stay positive. There is little value to trying to analyze "what if" scenarios in this case. After all, if asked for references you get to decide what names to put forward. – Michael Karas Aug 27 '18 at 12:11
  • @MichaelKaras I do? I was under the impression that that was the interviewer's decision. – CleverCrumbish Aug 28 '18 at 0:17
  • @CleverCrumbish: In my experience references are often not even requested. If they are requested, usually you can choose pretty much anyone (preferably not directly related to you). Only sometimes will you be asked specifically for your previous supervisor. My suggestion would be to choose/find a teacher or a fellow student that you think can testify that basically you are pretty normal: ''Yes I know X, and IME they are smart and friendly.'' – hkBst Aug 28 '18 at 8:20

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