I am graduating as an IT major and have worked as an Accounting Specialist as well.

My school has assigned me to a co-op opportunity after some painful mistakes on their part (I showed up at the company and they had no idea who I was or what I was doing there - I had to involve a lawyer for the school to fix their mistake).

I have now been here for 2 weeks yet have still not been assigned any tasks.

I've been asking around for something to do, but I'm stuck. I'm afraid that if the company decides they don't need me around, or that if the school thinks I did not accomplish enough during my internship, they will withhold my degree because I have not "completed" this co-op.

How do I approach the people here in order to find some tasks that need doing? How do I raise awareness that I am assigned here, and they may as well "use me"?

  • What is the goal of your question here? How to deal with the school or how to navigate the workplace problem of not being assigned tasks? I'm afraid that if it is the school it will be closed as off topic and if it is about task assignment it will be closed as duplicate.
    – Myles
    Jan 18, 2016 at 17:12
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    I would suggest talking to your school intern adviser about this situation. Tell them what you have asked for the answers or lack of answers you have gotten. It is good to be proactive about this because yes you don't want to waste a semester here if they have no work for you.
    – HLGEM
    Jan 18, 2016 at 17:28
  • I've edited the question quite heavily in order to bring it in line with Stack Exchange standards (more or less). Some people may still think it's too broad, but I hope it'll bring some answers in at this point. Please clarify about you being an IT guy, but also an Accounting Specialist. I took a guess when I wrote that line, as it was not clear from your text in what context you worked or are qualified as an Accountant.
    – AndreiROM
    Jan 18, 2016 at 17:28
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    I'm not sure without more information that this is answerable. The "I had to involve a lawyer" part makes it sound like you didn't exactly start as expected/planned with this company in the first place, can you clarify more about what that happened and what you've attempted to find work?
    – enderland
    Jan 18, 2016 at 17:42
  • Sounds to me like the company created an affiliation with a university to establish an internship program, which is common in several European countries that I know, but then failed to actually set-up a project/task for the intern to do. The school had to intervene and force the company to accept the student as an intern so now all parties involved are suffering. OP, am I interpreting this correctly?
    – Lilienthal
    Jan 18, 2016 at 17:48

2 Answers 2


First: Identify your contact

In a situation like this someone in the company was probably assigned to be in charge of you, or at the very least was pointed out to you as your contact within the company (a team leader, supervisor, manager, etc.)

This should be the first person you speak to, out of respect for the company's chain of command, and to show that you can follow simple instructions.

If someone was not pointed out to you, or if that person is not in the office (they're on vacation/sick/etc.) then approach the next manager up, or possibly Human Resources (HR).

There are now two ways to approach this situation, and they are not mutually exclusive:

Option 1: Officially communicate your concern

You have to be prepared to explain to the person you're speaking to exactly in what ways you could be useful to them, or the company/department.

If you've been assigned to a department (IT, for example), then explain to this person that you are eager to help, and list some of the ways in which you could pitch in. Maybe describe how you performed similar duties at your previous co-ops. Have a resume ready in case this person is not aware of your skills and qualifications.

Point out that since you're there they may as well use you.

If you performed software development, or database maintenance at your previous co-op but this company does not require those services then offer to perform low level IT Support (fix printers, help trouble-shoot network issues, etc.).

Don't be too proud to perform some of these low level jobs - even just being a receptionist, and forwarding calls. Be the coffee boy if that's what they need (and if you want to complete this co-op at all cost).

There is always some "dirty job" that no one wants to do. Even if it's scanning old manuals into a virtual library, or changing light-bulbs.

Note: If you speak to a team-leader/manager and they don't want to hear you out, or don't give you anything to do then you may wish to side-step them and go to HR, or a superior,

Option 2: Be proactive

Your actions here will greatly depend on the conversation you had with whomever is in charge.

If they hear you out and decide to give you a chance, then you're already set, but could use this approach to keep a little more busy.

If that person didn't help you however, this is going to be your last shot at being useful.

Basically approach people and ask if they need help. If you've been assigned to an IT department then maybe some people need a minor task performed. If the receptionist called in sick then maybe ask one of the managers if they would like you to "step in" for the day.

Note: This is tricky to do, because you could be stepping on people's toes politically. If someone gives you a task to do that a manager specifically asked them to perform, then you could be caught in the middle of an office conflict. Use common sense.

Good luck!

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    Don't be too proud to perform some of these low level jobs - even just being a receptionist, and forwarding calls. Be the coffee boy if that's what they need - This , Agreed! Jan 18, 2016 at 18:12
  • This is a good approach. I would attempt to introduce myself to relevant people and shadow in interesting departments during my stay. Even if you aren't assigned anything, gleaning info from the inside and gaining relevant knowledge, and networking is still a big plus. Just of course be courteous, and make sure you plan all this through the person in charge of you to avoid subverting them.
    – CKM
    Jan 18, 2016 at 23:04
  • As I've often said about IT work, sometimes you get to ride the horses, but more often you get to clean the stables. There's just a whole lot more of that type of work available. :)
    – BobRodes
    Jan 19, 2016 at 1:04
  • @Adel - I disagree. If your school can opt to ignore your coop for lack of educational value then this is just a complete waste of your time. When you graduate and interview for IT jobs employers will not be impressed by a candidate that spent their coop as an administrative assistant. If after reaching out to the company they still don't give you tasks pertinent to your field you need to go to your school with your complaints again. They don't want to send students to useless coops either. (I hope)
    – aaaa
    Jan 19, 2016 at 16:16
  • @aaaa - The OP simply needs another co-op credit to graduate. At that point finding a "real job" will be a whole other kettle of fish, and he doesn't have to list this experience on his resume if it's not relevant. Lots of people find a first job out of school with no co-op experience whatsoever. His concern is not getting that credit and being delayed in graduating. In order for the company to not simply kick him out he needs to be useful in some way, thus my suggestions. By your logic he should delay graduating and looking for a real job because anything other than IT work is irrelevant.
    – AndreiROM
    Jan 19, 2016 at 16:24

In this type of situation, I would advise you to escalate to your school administrator/s who are in charge of this co-op. You need to send an email along the lines of :

Dear Admin , I've been working at this co-op for 2 weeks, and I don't have any clear guidance or someone who is giving me job tasks. What should I do?

Keep a paper trail.

Also I'd email my new boss, whoever that is in at the company you're at (then fowarding that message to my coop representative)

Dear Boss, I currently have some bandwidth , and can take on some more work. Is there anyone I can work with, who needs extra help?

You need to appear energetic and eager to work. Keep a smile , because it seems like one of those challenging situations where the company feels that they are forced to let you in. Don't take this is an excuse to let down your guard and play solitaire. It will have consequences

  • This is good advice.
    – BobRodes
    Jan 19, 2016 at 1:05

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