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I've recently started a co-op job (4 month paid internship essentially) as a web developer at a fast growing company. It was a long shot applying for the job, but I was excited to find out I'd been chosen for the position given my lack of work experience.

On my first day I was handed a ticket I had no idea how to fix. After spending a few hours trying to learn what I was doing, I reached a dead end and moved on to something else. Although I've done web development on my own (which is how I landed the job), I often times have no idea what I'm doing on the job, and just keep Googling and rereading documentation to find out what to do.

The other co-op employee in my role is a fourth-year university student at his fourth co-op job, while this is my second year of school and only my first co-op job. I just finished my first week and I'm really not sure how to approach my manager. It's an exciting company, but I'm losing interest in the work as I have no idea what's going on.

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    Talk to that fourth year student ! – Mawg Jan 7 at 7:48
  • Internships are a recruiting tool more than a "get cheap work done" kind of tool (the good ones, anyway). So it's likely the expectations for co-op students is of low output and a fair amount of guidance. – Chris Jan 10 at 23:00
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I've been in your shoes. Nobody who knows what they're doing hires an intern and expects them to not need a significant amount of assistance. In a sanely-run organisation, you should have been assigned a team leader or developer who is familiar with the work to mentor you.

If nobody has been assigned to mentor you, that raises some serious red flags, and you should talk to your manager.

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    I agree, the whole idea of an internship is to learn. – JustSaying Jan 6 at 20:28
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I reached a dead end and moved on to something else.

This is the worst possible thing you can do. If you were unable to solve something then I expect you to summarize everything you've tried so far and tell about it to your manager. Just moving on to the next task without telling anyone is unaccaptable.

I often times have no idea what I'm doing on the job.

If you're hunting bugs then this is how it works. You never know what you are doing just searching in mulitple places hoping to find it and be able to fix it.

just keep Googling and rereading documentation to find out what to do.

You cannot know everything but you need to be able to figure it out so reading documentation is a normal thing.


The first thing you should do is to change your attitude. A job isn't intimidating because you don't know how things work and you don't know what you are doing... on the contrary, it's challenging and showing you things that you still need to learn.

This is what makes it interesting and if you don't want to end as a code-monkey you need to constantly have to find something new to learn. There seems to be a lot you still need to learn so this should be rather motivating you to improve yourself.

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    "This is the worst possible thing you can do." PRECISELY. – Fattie Jan 7 at 13:24
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    Indeed - the something else probably needed to get done, but tickets are not some arbitrary record in a system somewhere. They represent a real person who has a real problem - or a real bug in a real program. It needs to be fixed and it was given to you. I'm not saying you need to disappear into a telephone both to don a cape or anything, but you do have to step up and get the ticket solved. It may mean asking for help. It very possibly is a test to see how you handle things you don't know. – corsiKa Jan 7 at 16:00
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Unfortunately, your boss/manager/leader seems to have not given you good instruction on how to deal with tasks such you can't handle by yourself. More unfortunately, this happens all too often.

If you are stuck on a task for several hours, you should approach your manager or an appointed mentor in the team, outline what you understand about the task and what you have tried to do, and ask for guidance.

  • A formulation of this that I've found useful is "You must try, and then you must ask." Your job as a junior person is to improve your skills, and you can't do that if you give up without asking for help every time you reach a dead end. blogs.akamai.com/2013/10/… – aem Jan 7 at 4:29
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You were hired as an intern, so your manager should be expecting you to come to him with questions and concerns. I'd actually be moderately concerned if someone in their second year of college had zero questions for me after a week of work. I would approach your manager and ask if you can set up some meeting time to discuss how your week has gone, and the difficulties you have faced. If he is not able to answer technical questions, ask what developer on the team is able to answer those types of questions. If you are supporting a complicated product, perhaps ask the manager to walk you through what the product does and how it does it. It is very hard to support something that you do not understand.

On my first day I was handed a ticket I had no idea how to fix. After spending a few hours trying to learn what I was doing, I reached a dead end and moved on to something else.

When fixing tickets, it is actually quite common for you to not have any idea what the problem is when going into it. A large part of debugging is simply trying to reproduce the problem, understanding what the code currently does, and what the code should be doing instead. First, you need to understand what the correct behavior is, and then going from there.

I often times have no idea what I'm doing on the job, and just keep Googling and rereading documentation to find out what to do.

Welcome to the real world haha. I've been a developer for 2 years now, and i still spend a fair amount of my day googling source code and documentation. In fact, a large amount of the questions asked on Stack Overflow, in general, can be solved if the question asker had read the relevant documentation.

The other co-op employee in my role is a fourth-year university student at his fourth co-op job, while this is my second year of school and only my first co-op job.

I would also approach this other intern and ask him for advice, as he has been in this situation recently himself. Ask him how if he feels the same way you do, and if he doesn't, see if he has any specific advice for you. He has probably felt the same thing that you are feeling at least once in his three other internships.

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I agree with the other answers but I'd also add that you should still be looking to learn about your job in a more general way. You're inexperienced not only in the workings of the company but in your role as a web developer, so ask yourself what you can do each day to improve on that aspect. You were handed a bug via a ticket - do you know the best practices for dealing with tickets? Is there anything you could learn about debugging? Are there libraries or techniques you could try out? Is it an opportunity to build a relationship with the client that raised the bug? Is there a test that will tell you when you've fixed the bug?

There's a lot you can do or try to do.

You've also only been there a week - the pressure you're experiencing, did that come from your boss or other colleagues? Like I say, I agree that you should be given more guidance, but sometimes you will be dropped in the deep end in a job. Imagine how much worse it would be if they start blaming you or shouting. If they're under pressure maybe they don't have time to help right now, it's often the way with a new hire - you're there to help relieve their pressure!

I'm assuming you're a student fairly new to the world of work, and the fact of the matter is there are many jobs that are like this. It is a red flag about the company but that doesn't mean you should lose sight of the bigger picture. If a better job comes along, what have you done in the meantime to make sure you can take it?

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