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Currently I'm facing a tricky situation:

I'm a student and I've just started a software development internship at a large company (5,000 employees). The length of the internship is 4 months. The job description for the position was very appealing but unfortunately now that I am a few weeks into the position I've noticed the following:

  • I feel as if I'm overqualified for the work. I don't mean to boast, I simply mean that the position appears to be intended to allow the intern to learn the skills to be able to complete the work assigned. Although there are always new ways to learn how to complete tasks, I find that I'm able to complete anything assigned to me with ease (and therefore my learning may be minimal).

My ultimate goal is to transfer into a position within the same company that will allow me to continue to learn and develop new skills.

What would be the best way to approach this situation?

I thought it would be wise to consult The Workplace first because I'm not entirely sure who within my company I should bring this issue to.

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    You have only just got though the door and only had time to take your hat and gloves off - give them a chance. They are probably trying to assess you as well. – Ed Heal Sep 21 '16 at 1:29
  • @EdHeal Typically, I would agree with you and to be honest, that was my mentality for the first week. Unfortunately, at this point the extent of what the position will be dealing with seems pretty clear. – Paul Warnick Sep 21 '16 at 1:38
  • How many weeks have you been there? – Ed Heal Sep 21 '16 at 1:39
  • @EdHeal 2 full weeks, that being said, I've just recently figured out what ~90% of my work will consist of for the rest of the work term. Hence the reason I've become worried that I will not be getting the most out of my internship. – Paul Warnick Sep 21 '16 at 1:41
  • That is still quite early - try in a week or so. First week is usually induction - people getting to know you etc. Second week is starting some tasks to see what you are capable of. Third and forth week is when real stuff starts to happen. – Ed Heal Sep 21 '16 at 1:43
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You need to work that out with your manager.

Firstly you need to come up with examples of where you've completed assignments too easily. Then work with your manager to explain that and, most importantly, solicit their opinion of how it went. You might find you done really well. You might also find that you missed something, left lose ends or some combination of good & improvable. This is the part where you really have to listen. If there are any areas to improve, make sure you do.

If after doing that a few times, you and your manager should find yourself in agreement. From there it should be easier to find you a new home or new tasks within the same division depending on what's available. That would also be a good time to refer back to the job description and do a bit of a true-up of expected vs reality.

It's rare for managers to turn down free resources if they think that person will contribute right away. Just make sure your opinion of your capability matches that of the manager and they should go into bat for you one way or another.

  • Excellent answer, similarly to my response to Kilisi's answer below, how should I approach my manager if I'm already completing the highest level of work my department handles? – Paul Warnick Sep 21 '16 at 12:12
  • Also, good point on understanding the importance of knowing how well the manger believes the work was done, but I'm worried that time is an issue here. If I'm already at the top level of work that can be assigned to me, will my learning experience be greater if I stay in the same position and simply learn on (possibly minor) areas in which I can improve? OR would it be wise to attempt to move to a position where I can work on sometime entirely new to me (a thus amplify the learnin experience)? – Paul Warnick Sep 21 '16 at 12:13
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    You should already be having regular (weekly) catch ups with your manager where you can approach this. Kilisi makes a great point about learning how a workplace operates and what are workplace norms. You can actually learn this better while not concentrating on actually doing stuff. That said, nothing wrong with pushing yourself. Communication is the key to an effective workplace. Start learning how to do that now. You've got a great opportunity. – LoztInSpace Sep 23 '16 at 1:54
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Many internships are like that. There's more to learning about working than just the tasks you are assigned. Also it would be insane to let an untried intern loose on complex production work however great they think they are.

Give it at least a month before pushing for more interesting tasks. There is value in learning how to put up with mundane tasks as well.

  • You make some good points and ultimately this is probably the approach I will take here. What I worry about though, is that when I do feel ready to push for more interesting tasks, there may be none. The work I'm currently assigned is what my entire department handles, meaning everyone on my team completes very similar jobs (year round) and at this point I already feel as if I should push for more interesting tasks. What do you suggest if there was no possibility of recieving more desirable work within my current department for the rest of my internship? – Paul Warnick Sep 21 '16 at 11:47
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    My suggestion would be to soldier through it solidly and focus on getting a rave review. To be honest I learnt a heck of a lot more on my own time then I did at work. And my whole first year in the IT industry was drudge work, I did the interesting stuff on my own and by bugging everyone around me to show me stuff. – Kilisi Sep 21 '16 at 11:51
  • Great point about learning how workplaces operate vs doing stuff. – LoztInSpace Sep 23 '16 at 1:51
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You are thinking about this way to much. Most internships are way less about what your personal gain will be and way more about the employer learning about who you are and what you can do. You would be far better off thinking of the internship as a very long interview and evaluation.

Things you should consider doing:

  1. Demonstrate what you can do.
  2. Impress by showing your drive, commitment and work ethic.
  3. Learn what you can about how the business ticks.
  4. Become experienced with the processes and procedures used in the business.
  5. Understand the people that you work with and focus on skill development needed to be a part of that "community".

Surely the four months will be over in a flash and if you have played your cards right the employer will be certain to see how you can be an asset to the business as a full time employee.

  • This is an interesting way to look at the situation. I've actually forgotten to mention that I'm doing 4 (4 month) internships back to back for a total of 16 months of straight work. This current work term is my 2nd of the 4 but at each of them I've been trying to learn a different aspect of the software engineering world. That being said, my entire goal of each of these internships is more about the personal knowledge gain and the points you listed being second to that. – Paul Warnick Sep 21 '16 at 13:28
  • @PaulWarnick - If I were the manager that hired you for one of those intern positions and you told me that your sole reason for being there was for your own personal gain I would probably never hire you for a full time position. I think you need to change your primary focus to include many or all of the points I have raised in my answer. – Michael Karas Sep 21 '16 at 18:16
  • Aha, yeah upon re-reading my comment it sounds rather bad. To clarify, I mean more that the point of me doing 4 back to back internships was to diversify my learning (personal gain), where as the points you've brought up would be a priority in ANY position I've been given. What I mean to say is that my sole reason for being in a position is not the personal gain, simply that the points you've raised will be regardless of which position I am in and therefore the only aspect of my job I'd like to improve upon is my personal learning. – Paul Warnick Sep 21 '16 at 18:30
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You need to go into the situation with an open mind. Being a professional is more than sitting at the desk completing the work. It's collaboration, developing standards, documenting the work, moving the team forward, performing support, and being a part of the company culture. You can't learn this stuff anywhere but on the job.

You might be the hottest thing developing code since it was invented, but you're worthless to a manager if you can't adapt to the other stuff.

  • I agree, and to be honest my mind is very open. I believe that I can learn plenty of new things from the position I'm currently in. That being said, would I not be able to learn everything you've mentioned in another position that is more catered to my skill set all while learning new "position related" skills? – Paul Warnick Sep 21 '16 at 15:35
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    Sigh I have been exactly where you are. It is a game. You don't have a proven track record, so putting you on anything critical would be a risk. No manager is going to risk not being able to pay her mortgage on your behalf, in the case that things don't work out. That said, you're going to have to take a roundabout approach at making sure people working around you you know who you are, and how well you do what you do. You have to be subtle. When people have heard things about you that are good, it will be easier for you to slide into another position. – Xavier J Sep 21 '16 at 15:55
  • They don't teach this stuff on a campus! – Xavier J Sep 21 '16 at 15:56

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