I'm currently working at an unpaid internship and I'm absolutely miserable. My coworkers are rude and they don't let me help. I feel useless and asking for more work is futile. It's costing me money to be here and I'm starting to feel like it isn't worth it. At this point it makes more sense financially to go back home. If I quit though, can I still include it on my resume and ask for a reference?

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    i mean, you can do anything. Free country in most places. You should probably escalate this to your manager or some higher up. Because mean people suck. However, while you can include it on your resume, if you have not escalated this to someone at work, your reference probably (but i am often wrong) won't be much. You'd be better explaining the situation to future prospective employees, or just get another internship somewhere else. – bharal Nov 4 '14 at 0:51
  • At the very least, in the US you can put it on your resume and when a prospective employer contacts this place, they will confirm that you joined as an unpaid intern on day X and quit on day Y. If you're looking for a manager to explain how wonderful you are though, you probably won't have much luck. – raptortech97 Nov 4 '14 at 2:48
  • I know you want to quit, but my suggestion would be to ride it out. Scoring yourself an internship puts you ahead of the competition even if you felt like you learned nothing - your future employers don't need to know that. At the very least talk to your manager about these issues before leaving. – pi31415 Nov 4 '14 at 19:05

If I quit though, can I still include it on my resume and ask for a reference?

You could, but you need to consider what kind of reference this would actually provide. Would this be a reference you would really want?

If you quit on me, I'd have a hard time giving you a strong reference. If someone called to check on that reference, at best I'd say "user29236 worked for me for x months".

At worst I'd say "user29236 worked for me for x months, seemed unhappy, couldn't get along with the coworkers, then quit."

If I were the intern, I'd skip the reference part, as that wouldn't be the kind of reference I want.

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Yes you can and should put it on your resume. Don't mention on your resume you quit, just the start and end date, work done, expertise gained etc. Make it look positive, any experience gained is a good thing. It is up to you what to answer when asked in an interview about why or how it ended (often they don't ask). There is always a way to spin it into something positive.

Also you can ask for a reference and most managers will give you one, even though you quit. Quitting is part of this whole "game". It's in their best interest to give a good reference, it reflects bad on them as well if they wouldn't. And it's a small world, you never know how a bad reference can some day hit back.

It may be a good idea to clearly explain why you quit, in an email or written letter. In a form that would provide feedback so they (hopefully) could improve things. Sound positive, don't sound bitter or angry. Thank them for the opportunity, that you learned a lot, such things.

Leaving a bad situation isn't necessarily a bad thing and can be seen as a sign of strength. Especially if you do it gracefully.

As an aside this sounds like a bad situation to get out of asap and it sounds like they are (ab)using an intern position as a real job. There are laws against it. I know in California an employer is not allowed to (ab)use an intern position for regular work tasks, this also means an intern has more freedom with regards to work times and all that.

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Internships are supposed to help you learn how to navigate the workplace not just teach technical skills. Quitting when things get tough is a bad choice. Show some grit and go talk to your manager about the problem and try to work things out. Find out why people are treating you like this. What can you change about how you deal with them that might improve things? Ask you boss specifically what you can do to do a better job and then listen to what he says and follow his advice. People don't just act rude and not want to give you work for no reason. Find out the reason before you quit so at least you can fix it in the next job.

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If in the US.

There are well defined boundaries on what an unpaid intern is allowed to do. You really need to talk to the person that you report to and get some direction.

See this for some info: http://www.sba.gov/blogs/truth-behind-unpaid-internships-0
and http://www.forbes.com/sites/theyec/2013/04/19/6-legal-requirements-for-unpaid-internship-programs/

U.S. Legal Requirements:

  • The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school
  • The training is for the benefit of the trainee
  • The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under close observation
  • The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees, and on occasion the employer's operations may actually be impeded
  • The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the completion of the training period
  • The employer and the trainee understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training

Reading between the lines on that, essentially you can't perform a job that a paid employee should be doing. This is going to greatly limit your ability to "help" out on existing projects - basically you'll watch and see how things work but you won't be able to contribute much to it.

Now, back to the question: yes, you can put it on your resume. However before you leave you should discuss what's going on with your manager and make sure your expectations of the job are inline with their's and inline with legal requirements of your area. If those expectations are out of whack then do what you can to leave on good terms with them such that they'll provide a positive reference.

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