I'm doing a graphic design internship and have been working hard, writing down everything she wants me to find(I need to find pictures to go with her site). I showed my work to another girl who is designing the website and she said she liked it a lot, but when I showed them my intern leader she said they were too detailed . I Ten receive an email from her with even more detailed pictures as examples that she wants... This is only one example of how she's not happy with my work :( I'm starting to loose faith in myself but sucking it up lol! Is there anything I can do to make it easier? I write everything she wants me to find in the pictures down and then find them, but then it turns out she's not happy with them ... Eg: she asked me to find something that symbolizes what happens if the customer is loyal to the company in the future, something that symbolizes futuristic like a futuristic building etc...I found that, and then she said it doesn't connect with a customer...I found this futuristic car picture which I thought looked great, but she didn't even say anything when I showed it to her!....

Well it's an intership I'm duing during my holidays at university, was hoping this was going to be an opportunity for me for a full-time job, but not really happy with it :( I've completed the job now and she made me make examples with her images she found and one of mine and is going to show them to a higher level person to choose from...so, I'm kind of finished now but she wanted me to come in tomorrow again...I'm wondering wether I should quit my internship early or not..

I just don't understand what I'm doing wrong, she is giving me critic which I gladly take and write down every note she says and take it into consideration. The first week I found images that were too abstract and I said that's ok so I found loads of pictures that are more scenario based, she didn't want to see all of them because it would take too much time for her, so I chose the best ones, and even though they were scenario based, they were too "kitschy" and she started pointing out more abstract ones again...I just don't understand anymore, I felt like crying now because she said this was my last week to complete the task and now basically ignored all the pictures I found and added her own pictures to show to the boss and let him choose. We have creative differences she said but I only looked for what she asked me too.

What steps can I take to adapt to her expectations, start to become more productive, and save my internship?

  • Sorry if you missunderstood, I'm asking wether these are signs that I am just not compatible with the supervisor or this job and should quit the internship early, or if there are steps I can take to be more successful in my internship.
    – Jessicaks
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 11:45
  • I'm not sure, we're able to help you with this. Giving advice on which job to take or to quit is out of scope for this site and whether these are signs if you not being compatible with the supervisor is a question that will mainly yield opinion-based answers. Not that we wouldn't try.
    – CMW
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 12:12

3 Answers 3


It may not seem like it, but it sounds like a situation you'll look back on and be grateful for in later life. As you say your ideas are good according to another worker, but your leader is pushing to see if you can be more/handle more. A few observations:

  1. She's trying to get you to do a great job, not an OK one, maybe ask her more about why her choices are better (in a student/teacher way, not attacking)
  2. Sounds like you're having issues when you are trying to guess what she wants, are you asking enough questions about the brief (something you'll need to do in the working world)?
  3. At this time she's being your client, how are you handling/negotiating the situation. This is another required skill in a job like this that'll expect you to run with a job/client

I just don't understand what I'm doing wrong, she is giving me critic which I gladly take and write down every note she says and take it into consideration

Don't just consider, talk to her about her critique, she'll probably be glad you want her advice.

Think about this, a customer facing role like this requires you to learn these skills, embrace the chance to become great, not just OK, it's all about how you handle/deal with the criticism.

edit: Another thing that's occurred to me is that any design job (graphic/software/architecture/decorating etc) is largely about your overall vision for the piece.

Maybe an issue is how you are relaying that vision to your lead, she's maybe applying her own sensibilities as you need to sell it better/with more conviction.

  • 1
    +1. When you have a hopelessly useless intern, you just give them something to meddle in and not talk to them until their time is up. When you have someone that can actually be good is when you spend the time giving them feedback.
    – MrFox
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 14:36
  • Very true, the fact you are getting real work, no matter how much grief it seems, means they think there is something worth trying with, so think about that. Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 14:59
  • Thanks a lot I will ask more questions and make it clear what she is asking for
    – Jessicaks
    Commented Dec 10, 2013 at 19:38

Many times the learning curve from school to real world is steep. The goal of school(be it tech school, college, university, or other) is to give you a base knowledge not to make you an expert on everything you cover. Often in school it is easy to feel like you know everything and are ready to jump right in. The real world is like jumping into a cold deep pool. The initial plunge can be shocking and it can take some time before you are able to do much more than tread water. An internship is intended to help make swimming a little easier. It gives you a taste of the real world with out the expectations of producing immediately.

Here is how I would handle your specific situation. I would talk to her, and ask her why her images were more appropriate and what she was looking for that the options you provided lacked. Then listen to the answer. Do not argue with her about how she is wrong, just listen to what she says and and try to understand. Limit your questions and try to avoid any interruptions. Remember her time is precious and she is trying to invest sometime to help you improve. So thank her for taking that time for you.

Then go back and look at the images you picked for her and identify why they did not make they cut. If you find a few that you think do compare them to what she put in her line up. If you still think they compare well then you may want to ask her. It could be that you have a few that were up to par but they were drowned out by the stuff that did not make the grade. Or she might be able to point out what they were missing, or what she did not like. The key here is to limit this to just a few images. If you can not pick out the best 1 or 2 of your images then you probably need to look harder. If you are thinking these are OK but not as good as the ones in her list then you probably just need to set your bar higher. But the whole goal is to understand the expectations. Once you have that your next task should go better for you.

Do not expect that you will succeed in every attempt you make. The real world does not work like that. The key is to learn from your failures and not repeat those mistakes.


The bottom line is that the best way to get better is to ask questions. Here's a couple of ways to do that.

When you get feedback...

When you're getting the feedback on what needs to change, don't just nod and jot down the note - ask more questions. Offer examples (verbal or quick sketches) of what you think you heard that the speaker wants, if you think you have a clue. Basically ask - "is this it?" If that's not working, ask for other details that might make more sense. Or examples.

It sounds like there's a mismatch in expectations - it sounds like you think you know what the other person wants, but when you try to deliver it, it's not working - so there's something missing. Right when you get feedback is a really good time to get verification on what you've heard.

This becomes even more true in creative work, where one person's categorization of a given quality can be very subjective. It's important to develop some sort of baseline for what everyone means, and the best way to do that is to discuss, with examples if possible, what each of you means when you say certain words that are critical to the judgment.

When you see a trend...

Ask questions about the trend. Often a speaker doesn't even realize that there IS a trend... so put it all together - "every time I do X, you ask me to redo it. You've asked for A and B and C and I've tried to include that feedback in each assignment, but it seems that I'm still not giving you what you need - what am I missing?"

Similarly - you mentioned that she said you gave too much detail in a given assignment, but then the suggested changes were even MORE detailed - ask about that. Was the detail intentional? Was there something that she was specifically highlighting - sometimes it takes a trend to point out that feedback is disconnected and makes no sense.

This is best done as a private one on one in a low stress moment. Tagging someone for a sit down just as they are running to meet a deadline is a poor plan - pick a time and book a meeting of half an hour or an hour and formulate the questions.

Ahead of the assignment...

Get a sense of the overall agenda and what the time limits are across a project - don't ever get surprised by a deadline - know them up front. If your manager isn't taking an active approach, take it yourself, and suggest points for giving partial work and getting feedback. Get a sense of what level of depth is expected at each feedback point.

Nuances -

There can be political nuances that are out of your control. Working for someone who micromanages, or for someone who simply will not admit that others can be right, too - can happen. Or there may be elements to the work that you don't understand because they are unintuitive and no one told you. Be aware of the greater framework to the largest extent possible - see what the forces are for decision making that are beyond you or your local management's sphere of influence to see if there are issues that go far beyond your personal work. It may not make your work better, but it'll give you a better perspective on what's going on.

  • In this case the OP's mentor has said that she does not have time to answer all the op's questions. Continuing to probe can make you appear to be a help vampire. In this case the OP is better off writing the questions down and trying to get the answer themselves and only going to the mentor with the limited set of questions that the OP has already tried to answer. Commented Dec 11, 2013 at 20:26
  • well I have tried yesterday to do everything you guys mentioned, she has put with with another intern to choose pictures and it was such easier because she got what I meant with each picture, and even chose the ones I would have. We finally did a mock up and the supervisor liked it...so I think there is favoritism there, but I'll just pull through.
    – Jessicaks
    Commented Dec 12, 2013 at 10:23
  • @Zoophiliana - That or the other intern seems to be grasping the concepts that she is trying to teach you, so she has placed you with the other intern in hopes that you will learn from them. Try not to assume the worst, if you do you will never be happy in any position. Commented Dec 17, 2013 at 15:30

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