I am currently a 3rd year college student pursuing a degree in computer science. As part of my degree, I am required to complete a number of co-ops/internships. These are paid internships in the United States. Students are fully responsible for securing theses positions themselves (searching, applying, interviewing, etc.). It is great experience to have in an early career, but it also means the quality of the positions can vary depending on where you get offers from. I have completed one summer internship and am in the middle of an 8-month internship at a separate company (both software engineering roles).
While these have started out as exciting opportunities to get "real world" experience, both internships eventually devolved into mostly unfulfilling work that make me question my career choice as a whole.
My biggest grievances with these experiences have been the following:
- Unsatisfying workload: The amount of work I have been assigned is often way less than what I am capable of handling. My managers always praise the pace and quality of my work, but there has simply not been enough to keep me occupied and engaged. Addressing this with comments such as "I feel like I could be taking on more responsibility" has not resulted with much change.
- No collaboration: I have been the sole developer on all of the projects I have been assigned. While having a high degree of freedom is nice, I feel like it has limited my early career learning and growth. Not having the opportunity to collaborate with other coworkers or pick the brains of more senior developers has limited me to doing only what I am capable of teaching myself.
- Little constructive criticism: Being an undergrad student with less than one year of work experience, I fully understand that I have a lot to learn when it comes to my skills as a developer and overall employee. However, I feel that I don't receive the criticism necessary to make these improvements. Code reviews have ranged from non-existent to very informal, and directly asking for ways I can improve has not been fruitful.
While there have been moments where these internships have felt challenging and rewarding, I'd say the grievances listed above have caused them to feel unfulfilling a majority of the time. I do enjoy the technical challenge that programming provides, but not enough to justify dealing with these issues.
Are these just unfortunate experiences that don't reflect the software industry as a whole? If so, how can I make the most of my time to hopefully secure a better opportunity in the future?
If this is actually reflective of life in the software industry, do I need to do some soul searching when it comes to my career path?