I am in the middle of my first ever internship in the computer field. I just got a final performance review from my immediate project lead who happens to be a contractor who joined along with us. Since it was my first internship I worked really hard with lot of enthusiasm to learn many new software and had to google for many situations which were difficult to understand. I feel that my work was satisfactory for an intern.

Even my project lead was surprised and asked how did you get some of these solutions. When I said I learnt some of them by googling, he was not happy. From there on, whatever work I did he was kept on asking whether I googled and presenting some other's work even when I did on my own. At one point of time, I prepared a nice documentation about the work flow and he even asked "Are you trying to impress me?" in an uncomfortable way. I continued my work with other intern colleagues with lot of struggle and less support from him and finished the project successfully.

At the end I got the performance review as "not reliable", "not able to work with others" and average performance. Because of one day late submission of my work (instead of Friday, I delivered on Monday) he said my deliverables were late in the review. To be honest, he never gave any feedback on my work or any issue he saw me beside in the beginning. I am not sure whether he was not comfortable to see someone may take his job (because he is contractor).

Should I go and talk to my supervisor directly or talk to the project lead itself?

My internship is getting extended and I don't wan't to jeopardize my learnings in the next 3 months if it is not going to be appropriate to raise this issue.

  • 29
    The appropriate response to any performance review, whether good, bad, or indifferent, is always the same: "I really appreciate your feedback. How can I do better?" Make sure that the person responsible for evaluating your performance knows that you want to be told immediately if there is any room for improvement. You shouldn't have to wait until your next performance review to check in on your progress. Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 3:36
  • 17
    "When I said I learnt some of them by googling, he was not happy" - did he tell you why he is not happy about that?
    – Uooo
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 5:44
  • 11
    @App Trainee. Googling is common. It looks like your team leader is somewhat a jerk. At our company, we make the interns as comfortable as possible. We believe that it is our mistake in case if the intern is not doing well.
    – samarasa
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 14:18
  • 6
    Just because YOU think you did a good job doesn't mean anything. You very easily could have done a poor job. I'm sure your review is accurate.
    – squeemish
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 17:35
  • 12
    @squeemish If you're saying he can't be sure, what makes you so certain you can be sure? Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 2:14

5 Answers 5


You seem to be forgetting about the purpose of an internship. An internship is supposed to be for you to learn about how the workplace works. However, instead of learning from your supervisors, you seem to be intent on rejecting what they say.

Googling for solutions may or may not be appropriate depending on the field of work. If you are producing written work, and what you present is copied from the internet, that is not acceptable. In any case, you need to demonstrate that you have used your judgement and understanding to choose from the many possible solutions available by googling. If you just took the first solution you found, you may be in trouble. At the very least you should be looking to explain why the solution you found works, not just "I googled it so it must be right".

You state that you submitted some work late, and then complain that "he said my deliverables were late". That's because they were late. This is not high school, where your teachers give you extensions automatically. Sometimes a task takes longer than you think. When this happens in a professional environment, you need to 1) make every effort to meet the deadline you committed to, even if that means extra hours 2) if you still can't complete the task on time, make sure your boss is aware of this well before the deadline. If you didn't do this, then you certainly deserve to be marked down.

Finally, your complaint is that you got an 'average' performance review. From the description of your work that's entirely appropriate, maybe even generous. Even you described your own works as "satisfactory", so I don't see why you are complaining about an 'average' review. Your internship got extended, so you really don't have much to worry about. In the world of employment, most people are going to get 'average' assessments. You certainly don't get 'above average' ratings just for showing up and doing the bare minimum. To get a better rating than that, you not only need to complete all your work satisfactorily, but also perform over and above what is expected of you. The fact that some areas of your work was criticised isn't something you should be upset about. It's useful information about what you should be working on improving.

My recommendation is that you go to your supervisor, thank him for working with you, and ask what he/she recommends for you to improve your performance in the future. The one thing I would have expected your supervisor to do that you don't mention is give you specific examples of things you did that caused him to write his comments. I recommend asking him/her for some.

Don't forget, this internship is about learning how the work world operates. You have the opportunity to learn some valuable lessons if you choose. Don't throw it away.

  • 47
    "Consider who is more likely to be right - a first time intern or an experienced worker." - IMHO, that's a bad advice. If someone tells me the way they do it is right because they have more "experience", I do even more disagree with them. If they can't tell you in a few sentences why they do something like they do it, they probably do not know themself if it is right that way or not.
    – Uooo
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 5:42
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    @w4rumy Yet, this advice is very healthy. It is always healthy to (self) reflect. Considering something does not equal reaching a predefined conclusion!
    – sehe
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 7:07
  • 22
    Comments like this about experience bother me: If they can't tell you in a few sentences why they do something like they do it, they probably do not know themself if it is right that way or not. This is patently false. So much of the tacit knowledge that comes with experience involves navigating the grey areas in an environment, and making a judgment call on how best to accomplish it. That cannot be explained in a few words, as it is a skill that takes years to develop. Sorry, experience will always be relevant.
    – jmac
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 23:33
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    @ErikReppen When did "average" with a contract renewal become a "lousy review"? Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 2:17
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    @ErikReppen You seem to be taking the view that ANY negatives in your review make it 'lousy'. How do you expect someone to communicate to you areas where you could improve? I could say that approach would make you difficult to work with, but that would be 'lousy'. Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 15:15

Sounds like you're working with a jerk. I've been developing software for 40 years, and I Google stuff all the time - including in particular Stack Overflow. If one can get an answer easily, why struggle? We're here to get stuff done, not burn up hours.

'Late' by one day? Some of my deliverables were 'late' by 18 months. Sounds like your project lead is the one that needs a performance review.

If your project lead is judgmental, the best thing to do is chart your own course and stay out of his way. Make sure the other people you're working with are up to speed on your accomplishments. In general, if he is also a new hire, he is also subject to review. Imagine him telling his manager that you're not doing original work because you spend all your time looking up solutions on the Internet. Most managers don't care how you get it done, just get it done and make sure it works. His manager is going to be wondering what he's doing with his day, not what you're doing with yours.

  • 10
    "If your project lead is judgmental" is where the irony peaked
    – sehe
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 6:57
  • 20
    I disagree with the mentality of 'I do things late so it's fine for others to do things late' I also fail to see how you jumped from 'I am 18 months late, so someone else needs a performance review for expecting things on time'
    – user5305
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 10:01
  • 12
    @MeredithPoor If you were 18 months late with a project I managed, and hadn't done anything to warn me in advance that you were going to be late, you'd have been fired. Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 13:06
  • 5
    @DJClayworth - The reason my projects are 'late' is because they involve heavy amounts of reverse engineering, and the client is hoping it can be done by some externally set regulatory deadline. Sort of like - it took 8 years from Kennedy's speech to landing a man on the moon, Obamacare involves 10 times the effort and we're supposed to have it working in 2 years. Good luck with that. At any rate, I keep my clients appraised of progress week to week. Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 15:05
  • 6
    There is a difference between an actual real world project deadline and a project that an intern works on. The intern has limited time to complete a project, if they are late, and its clear the author didn't warn those involved in the review process his project would be late. There is no excuse for being late as an intern, the deadline was known, if the deadline needed to be adjust it should have been adjusted as any real world deadline would be moved.
    – Donald
    Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 12:38

Since it was my first internship I worked really hard with lot of enthusiasm to learn many new software and had to google for many situations which were difficult to understand.

Are you really saying that you just typed stuff into Google and blindly copied and pasted stuff from the results without thinking about why it works at all? That is one interpretation of what you say here. Meanwhile, others may say that they use Google as a starting point to learn more about the issue, try various solutions and then recommend a solution based on some experiments done. While in theory these are similar, there can be quite a bit of difference in how these are seen.

I'd suggest learning more about emotional intelligence and how to become more adept at presenting points.

I would suggest considering asking some of your colleagues how they view working with you and what you may do to be better as there could be various tips they may pass along. The key here is to consider that everyone may have something of value to pass along. Definitely one thing I can not stress highly enough is to not bad mouth the project lead as this can give you a reputation that I doubt you want.

My issue here is about communicating how one solved the problem.

Consider if your doctor, auto mechanic or some other professional said, "I looked it up on the internet," for an explanation of why they did something. Would you think this is professional and trustworthy? Probably not. That "Google told me so" isn't likely to go over well if that is all one has for a justification. On the other hand, if one takes that information from Google, does a few experiments and learns more about the solution this is quite different and these latter parts are what have to be communicated.

Another example would be to consider Math word problems in grade school. In the lower grades it is enough to get the right number at the end. How one got it doesn't matter and isn't often considered. However, at higher grades it is important to be able to justify one's position. Thus, one may see the exact same problem in very different grades and while getting to the answer is the same, there is something different about how the answer to each is written.

  • 7
    Googling is extremely common. I disagree with your interpretation. "How to set up XXX? Hmm, should I Google it or bother someone else to help me?" Probably end up with the same link to a guide from your co-worker..
    – Matsemann
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 8:45
  • 6
    @Matsemann: It depends on the question. For broad introductions or "hard" problems (like 'How can I send an email with JEE?') ask the internet. For best practices, workflow-related questions or softskill improvements ask your colleagues.
    – user9542
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 10:44
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    @Matsemann - While googling solutions is definitely common, there's a big difference between copy/paste from somewhere and understanding what you're using. It's quite possible the OP was doing the latter and the supervisor thought he was doing the former. Or equally possible that the OP was doing the former. "While in theory these are similar, there can be quite a bit of difference in how these are seen."
    – Bobson
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 13:49
  • 1
    @Matsemann, you did read the whole answer right?
    – JB King
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 15:00
  • 1
    We don't have any details from the OP as to what the specifics of 'googling' were. Seems like a lot of people are jumping to the conclusion that the intern was simply cutting-and-pasting everything. That may be true, but we certainly don't know that.
    – DA.
    Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 8:00

It is irrelevant that you think your work was satisfactory, your immediate supervisor did not and this is person who has the ability to get you fired or picked up as a permanent employee or assign work. You need to fix what he perceives is wrong even if you don't agree.

If you go around him to the next level up, you will get a reputation as a troublemaker and unprofessional. Don't go down that road. Frankly it only makes his criticism seem more valid. Learn to accept that what other people perceive about you is important and learn to manage those perceptions. Learn that people who have more political power in an organization (which is basically everyone not an intern in your case including the admin assistant if your group has one) have more say in what is and is not considered the correct way to do things.

What you do is adjust your behavior to meet your boss's expectations. Or find a new job with a boss you like better.

Not meeting deadlines even by one day is "not reliable" BTW. Googling is acceptable for some things and not for others (especially if you put proprietary code out on the Internet, a huge non-no) and never when you copy and paste without understanding what you are doing.

Politics are present in all organizations and blowing the guy off with I found it on Google is pretty much the kiss of death. You researched it on Google and then modified the ideas you found there to solve your problem. A monkey can Google, a developer does more than that. Perhaps, too, he was unhappy because he had to ask you what you were doing instead or because you blew off his questions with an attitudinal answer (the tone of voice you used when you said you Googled it is important.). It sounds to me as if you don't like the guy or think he is really your boss and he rightly smacked you down for it.

One of the biggest problesm I saw in what you wrote is that getting a poor review is blamed on someone else. No, it is not his fault, it is yours (Why didn't you know in advance how he felt about your work? It is your responsibility to make sure the boss is happy long before you get a review, for instance, he was unhappy when you said you Googled, did you ask him why or blow him off?) and until you accept that and make changes you will continue to get poor reviews or get fired. The fact that he was a contractor is irrelevant and frankly only makes you appear petty to include that. Your immediate boss is the most important person in your work world. It is your job to make this person happy.

I wanted to add: Every person I know who has gotten a review that said their work was not acceptable who didn't then change what he or she was doing eventually ended up being fired. It really doesn't matter what you think of your performance, it matters what your boss thinks. I think of one guy I worked with who was shocked to be fired even though in the course of a year he was transferred to every team we had (no one wanted to work with him) and none of his code ever made it prod and he was counseled on his performance multiple times. We gave him far more chances than most places and he refused to see he was failing until he got smacked in the face with it. Don't be that person.

  • 12
    I 100% agree with your answer. What is more concerning is the "not working well with others" that can be a kiss of death for an intern. The average performance can be improved on, deadlines being missed can be worked on, getting rid of the impression your pain in the rear end to work with is much harder to resolve.
    – Donald
    Commented Jul 24, 2013 at 12:42
  • If a deadline is missed by an intern or entrylevel dev this is the fault of the lead and not the dev. The lead should have been helping the intern and tracking progress along the way. (And this is very easy to do without micro-managing.) Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 21:02
  • @MatthewWhited, not necessarily, I have seen devs lie about their progress until a deadline is missed. And sadly I have seen intern on projects of their own with no actual lead or with another intern as lead..
    – HLGEM
    Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 13:48
  • Trust but verify. It's your job to check their work. Check-in, code reviews, tests (user and automated). Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 16:47

Performance reviews are a learning experience, but the main points are.

  • There should be no surprises for either of you.
  • It should address how you did over the year and what you need to improve (not "What you did wrong last year")

Before any review, you need to document everything good/bad that has happened to you while working (as it happens). It should be 1 liner, and if a negative point detail how you addressed that point and who you discussed with.

If there is any problem with your work then your superior should address it at that point in time. If not then it certainly isn't something that should be brought up in your review, and something you can push back on (eg. "OK, this is the first I am hearing of this, why wasn't it addressed when the situation happened?")

Likewise anecdotal comments should be challenged (eg. "I heard you were not a team player" vs better comment "During incident X you did Y which was perceived as not being a team player").

One other point. Even if something is told in a positive light, it is very easy to have your pride stung. Often people will have a higher expectation of themselves then they realise. So always take valid criticisms as a learning experience, not as a personal attack.

From what you wrote, it appears there is no surprises and your expectation met your managers.

Lastly, "Searching Google for solution". Depending on your job this can be a sackable offence depending on how it is used. For example, if you were to put 3rd party code into a product you ship, you risk contaminating the whole project and losing man hours/money. Also possible litigation for your employer.

This is probably why you got such a negative response for this.

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