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I am an intern at a software company and I finished up my first project and was assigned a second. The second project has a road map of what they want to happen and it involves a lot of things I do not have access to.

I have completed as much as I can, but now I need to:

  1. Speak to security people (project involves password creation)
  2. People who can set up a database on a in house server
  3. People who work with the service website that the project would be deployed on

Our company is very much meeting oriented so the manager tends not to be at his desk much. I have spoken with my mentor on my progress and he agrees we need to speak with my manager.

I have attempted contact through our chat applications when it says he is online, but I get no response. I do not wish to be that intern that continues walking up to their desk for every question I have, but I feel like that is needed with the extreme vagueness of my project and the amount of other resources I need to contact (being an intern I do not know who these people are, just that they exist somewhere). On the occasion I get a timely response he sets ups a meeting 5 days later.

How should I handle this and what should I do in the meantime while I wait my questions to be answered?

  • Does your mentor not know who the people are? – Amy Blankenship Jun 30 '16 at 15:21
  • Really as an intern you cannot figure who does security, database, and website? Start with org chart. Or simply call the help desk. If they refuse to help is another thing. – paparazzo Jun 30 '16 at 15:21
  • @AmyBlankenship My mentor does not, from my observing the company seems, as they have admitted, very narrow minded to what others are doing. – theblindprophet Jun 30 '16 at 15:24
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    @JoeStrazzere not so sure I agree with that. I think the OP's intuition that it's not great to constantly be bothering the boss is a good one. Sometimes it's important to stay out of the boss's hair, even if that means you're not productive for a short period. They may be willing to take that hit to prioritize their other tasks. – Amy Blankenship Jun 30 '16 at 16:03
  • "I do not wish to be that intern that continues walking up to their desk for every question I have" - another approach you could try: make a list of a few points (similar to how you've done here), and then schedule a meeting with him. Bring your list and say you want to get his input on them. If he doesn't know one, he'll tell you who to go to for that point. – Brandin Jun 30 '16 at 16:04
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It might be worth scheduling a meeting with this manager, and take a list of questions you currently have. Nearing the end of the meeting mention that you will email him the minutes and any follow up questions you may have, that way he'll be expecting an email or two.

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    Given that the OP said the company was meeting oriented, then the company culture would seem to be to schedule a meting to cover all of the questions – Peter M Jun 30 '16 at 16:06
  • Great advice for a new employee, but I disagree when the employment is entry level fixed duration and not project based. – CWilson Jul 1 '16 at 3:58
1

At this point, the best thing to do would be to talk to your mentor. That's exactly what that person is for. Tell them the steps you've taken to contact you manager, but you've been put off and how it's negatively impacting your ability to work. This could lead to a couple situations:

  1. This is normal for the company and you just have to get used to it. After time you'll probably be more autonomous, but you are unfortunately in a weird spot as an intern. Ask the mentor if there's something else you can work on in the meantime. If he doesn't have something for you to do, start educating yourself on various things that may be used in this process or other things the company is likely to have you do.

  2. Your mentor may be able to escalate the situation with your manager, or make it more clear that until you talk to the manager, you have nothing to do. As a full-fledged employee, his words will have more weight than yours.

I wouldn't be too worried about people who don't respond via messenger. I know a lot of people who barely use it (if ever) even when it indicates availability. He may simply not pay any attention to the application.

  • Very few of our managers use a messenger application of any kind unless they initiate it. Otherwise they would be inundated with messages. – HLGEM Jun 30 '16 at 17:22
  • Yes, the mentor is the key here for both questions, how to handle the silence and what to do in the meantime. An employee needs to be proactive when not being productive, or they lose their job. Interns have no such concern, and the priority of their communication by management is adjusted accordingly. – CWilson Jul 1 '16 at 4:03
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I may be way off base here... but 'internship' and 'second project' seem like important clues here.

You finished your first internship project already, before the end of June. Well done. Classes start on August 18th, right? Most internships don't last right up until the day before classes start, so I would assume your last day is August 12th, or earlier. That gives you 6 more weeks, maximum.

On the other hand, each of your three points above suggest that there are multiple people in each department that need to be contacted, and at least 3 separate departments that need to be coordinated, prior to actually getting any work done. If you are involving at least 6 different cross functional resources in a matrix or functional environment, especially with physical resources used cross functionally, this is no 6 week timeline.

Your manager doesn't want you to talk to these people. Because you won't be the one whose trust they require down the road, and you certainly won't actually be acting on what they are saying. Your manager is worried that they would have to repeat themselves later (no one likes to repeat themselves), making the project that much more difficult to complete later on.

Your manager wasn't prepared to have an effective intern, had only one summer project, and now has absolutely no idea what to do with you.

Go ahead, be upset for a few minutes. I too really don't like not having anything useful to do. Then realize that you have a golden opportunity here. Well, first confirm with your mentor that this is what is going on. Then, realize that you now have over a month to pad your resume and build your network. Find things to do. Become a superstar, and get recommendations from people in multiple departments out of this internship. Explore the company as a whole, and learn what you do and don't like about the entire company, not just your little department where you have been for the last 6 weeks. Don't goof off, obviously, and do coordinate efforts with your mentor, but it is time to be self directed with your career growth, and to use your mentor's connections as leverage. You won't have this kind of time (40 hours/week) to freely network and do job exploration for a long time.

So, document well what you have already done with this project. Maybe put it in a fancy binder, or whatever will impress your manager. They want that, it will save them time come September when they will be pursuing this project in force. Keep in touch, ask periodically if there is anything you can do. But don't annoy them, because then you become both useless and annoying to them, the manager gives you busy work that won't look good on resume or networking, and then your adviser gets upset because they can't place an intern there next year.

  • Wait, why do you assume the OP has any classes ? – Radu Murzea Jul 1 '16 at 12:40
  • @RaduMurzea Because he says so, in his profile. Even if he hadn't, in the US (also from OP profile), this is how internships work. – CWilson Jul 1 '16 at 14:02
  • I realize from the short time I lived and worked in Germany, internship does not have the same meaning everywhere. I believe that the question is not localized, but in the case of the internship tag, locale matters. Hopefully future readers of this question will look at my answer and the other answers and realize that the fixed duration and short term of the internship are important aspects, and will accept or reject the various answers based upon their own type of internship. – CWilson Jul 1 '16 at 14:11

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