I have a problem and I don't know how to deal with it.

Currently, I am a non-paid intern at a mid-sized company. The internship is really hard for me and my mentor isn't supportive at all. I feel like I am wasting my time here since most of the coding tasks they threw at me are hard for me and I learn nothing from them.

Also to mention, I won't be able to complete all their tasks on time. I am supposed to be there for a month - I'm on my second week now. I do not like going there overall.

Should I speak with them about leaving (Staying a week less, or even leaving this week)?

  • 102
    You say that most of the coding tasks they threw at me are hard for me and I learn nothing from them That seems to be a contradiction. If a task is hard, you should go out, do research, figure out how to solve it, and then learn. You do say my mentor isn't supportive at all, but I don't know what that means - are you making an effort to learn things and ask well-researched questions? You also mention that I am supposed to be there for a month - what is the purpose of this internship, from your perspective and the company's perspective? 1 month isn't long enough to contribute must at all. Jul 25, 2017 at 9:26
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    +1 to @ThomasOwens's comment. It might be that this is your first stint at a real workplace. I know that it feels tough in the starting, but once you get used to the confusion and stress, the sky starts to clear up. Put some more effort in the internship and learn as much as you can. Only leave if you have a better opportunity somewhere else or if you think that the kind of work you are doing there is not at all related to your future goals.
    – ssd
    Jul 25, 2017 at 9:32
  • 10
    A pragmatic consideration - When you go to interview for a full time position and they ask you about your internship experience, will you be comfortable explaining to the hiring team why you decided to quit and the impression that will give? Personally, I don't think leaving this particular internship will be a good idea for the reasons you've listed.
    – J. Ari
    Jul 25, 2017 at 12:46
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    No money, no incentive. I wouldn't stay. I wouldn't have even gone in the door.
    – DCON
    Jul 25, 2017 at 12:53
  • 12
    Are you in the US? If so, unpaid non-academic internships are illegal, and they owe you (and all their other unpaid interns) at least minimum wage.
    – BradC
    Jul 25, 2017 at 15:53

7 Answers 7


No, you should not leave. It is only a week we are talking about and you are likely to learn something in that time. If the problem was you getting harassed, picked on, or something similar then I would probably recommend leaving (as it is such a short time frame). However, in your case I would say that staying just for the sake of showing yourself that you can cope with less than perfect circumstances at work will be worth it. You will be proud of completing the internship and this sets a tone for you to build the rest of your career on.

If you want to work in any programming field (or any field) you are going to have to fight through jobs and times like these to get to where you want to be. Quitting will always be an option, but seldom the right one. Focus on your long term goals and you will find it easier to deal with the short term difficulties. As Cicero put it

"The wise man therefore always holds in these matters to this principle of selection: he rejects pleasures to secure other greater pleasures, or else he endures pains to avoid worse pains."

Meaning; the joy of having fought through your internship will be greater than the joy of not having to go to work next week.

Even if your expectations are not getting met it does not mean that the internship is useless. It is valuable to learn what you don't like and in what environments you can't work productively. This helps you later on with knowing what jobs fit you and what ones don't.

Your mentor not being helpful is also a valuable lesson. Not all people can or are willing to teach others. Asking well researched questions that show effort and that you have tried to find the answer will help increase the chances of getting help from your mentor.

Don't worry about completing all the tasks. As an intern over such a short time frame (and unpaid) it is not your responsibility, nor should it be their expectation that you complete everything on time. You need time to learn and this means you are a lot less efficient then their normal employees.

Hard coding tasks are good. Even if you are only able to complete one of those hard tasks or a function in one of those tasks it will teach you something and make you proud. I remember sending my first email with PHP, it took me 3 days (and even then it was still buggy) but I am still proud to this day that I stuck to it and was able to make it work.

Do not compare your work or work pace with that of your mentor. Your mentor will write better code and be about 10 to 100 times faster than you at it. This is how it is supposed to be. Don't feel bad that your code is not as good as theirs or that you cant keep up with their pace. As an intern or even a Junior Developer this is perfectly normal.

You can bring it up if you feel its worth it. Your mentor might not realize that he/she is not helpful or that you find the programming tasks too hard. Just choose your wording wisely here, avoid saying "You are not helping me!".

  • 18
    Your mentor not being helpful is also a valuable lesson -> also you can be that supportive mentor to someone else in the future
    – Stephen S
    Jul 25, 2017 at 13:03
  • Maybe switch it from hard to difficult. "Hard coding" has a meaning, and that's not what you're trying to convey.
    – ricksmt
    Jul 25, 2017 at 17:38
  • I have had 5 coding jobs/internships. 4 of these 5 my mentors were not helpful at all (too early to speak of the 5th). I saw my second mentor/advisor a solid 5 times over the course of 3 months and I had to do the research completely alone! These sucked, but I learned a lot. I even published first author with basically no help from my advisor.
    – ignorance
    Jul 25, 2017 at 19:32
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    +1 for this: However, in your case I would say that staying just for the sake of showing yourself that you can cope with less than perfect circumstances at work will be worth it. No workplace is ever going to be perfect, learning how to deal with less than ideal circumstances is an important life lesson.
    – Steve-O
    Jul 25, 2017 at 23:28

It's most certainly okay to quit the internship, you're fully at right to do so.
I'm not sure how wise it is though.

I'd personally recommend toughing it out as you're already half-way and it'll be a small personal victory for yourself (i.e you didn't quit / throw in the towel). Programming characteristically has quite a learning curve which may be why you feel like you're feeling very challenged by it.

The problem with quitting is that you may be burning bridges - and even though you may not think you'll go back to this company, it also means you likely won't be able to reference them either (which also in all likelihood may not be a big deal, either).

Good luck, and whatever you decide to do is okay.

  • Thanks for answering. Maybe I am wrong (correct me if I am) but I don't see a point sitting there all learning new things and solving minor problems(Can do the same thing home) With 2 weeks in, I am 5% done with the job. At the end of the 4th week, I won't complete the task. Carrer wise won't be a problem since the company isn't well known and isn't nearly as popular as others.
    – Josh
    Jul 25, 2017 at 9:52
  • If you can (and would) do the same thing at home, then what is the difference doing it there? Where you perhaps might get feedback for free at some point and where depending on your assignment you might get in touch with common tools and company procedures. This is not only a rhetorical question - an important feat is to identify the actual things that annoy you at a workplace so you can change or avoid them. Jul 25, 2017 at 13:25
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    Agreed. My first (likewise unpaid) internship was awful: the boss was an utter ass, I was excluded from the circle of employees, and about halfway through it became clear they were never going to use the software I was writing (totally uninterested in serious bugs I found in their code). I hated it (still do! never used the reference out of sheer spite) and wanted to quit. But since it was just 4 weeks I stuck with it and I did learn a lot, mainly what's important for me in a job (getting along with my boss and colleagues) and how to deal with asshole managers.
    – Llewellyn
    Jul 25, 2017 at 18:08

There are some good answers already, but I want to point out one thing that is critical to your success in the work world. You need to learn not to give up when things get difficult. This is only a one month internship, you need to stick it out. Persistence is the the most critical job skill you can have for success and you want to run away instead. Don't start your career by starting a pattern of running away when things get tough. Because all jobs have times when things are tough. All lives have times when things are tough. You need to be able to learn to cope when things are less than perfect.

Your mentor is not supportive? Fine most of them are not supportive. Instead of whining about it, think, "I will succeed in spite of him."

The work is hard? Fine, most work worth doing is hard. Dig in and learn, take a swing at it. When you miss, get up and try again. Everyone fails sometimes; you need to become the person who gets up again and tries again. Persistence is the most critical factor for job success. More than education, more than talent, more than anything else.

  • 4
    And really two more weeks is the lowest notice period common any where. So you have to be able to work at least that long when you are ready to leave.
    – HLGEM
    Jul 25, 2017 at 14:46

I am not a mentor or anything like this, but I have completed multiple internships throughout my scholarship. During the ones I did, I was paid and quite well. Looking at yours, I feel like you are getting ripped off.

I do not suggest you to leave, but you should take this opportunity to ask your mentor a bunch of questions. See, you aren't paid, so you might as well get every bit of information you can and they can't criticize you about it.

Asking questions is well seen for someone new to coding and it can also help you learn, solve your problems and potentially lead to a paid job.

If for some reason, you don't get proper support from your team, there is close to no point staying, except for self improvement. Nevertheless, you should talk to your superior in order to find a solution.

Even if you don't get it, there is most likely every answers you are looking for online. Being resourceful is a highly valuable skill.

Once you are done with it you might also keep a recommendation letter to help you find better internships or jobs in the near future.

Two weeks isn't long.

I wish you luck.


The thing you should consider in this case is that internships are meant to be a learning experience. You say you're not learning anything and that could be true but I doubt it.

Sure, you could be looking at the same sort of code and the same sort of problem at home, browsing stackexchange to find the answers and reading educational pages to learn about the intricacies of the language you work in. The major difference between doing that and being at an internship is that you're working with REAL code. An exercise can be well designed, it can feature as many tricky solutions as the creator can come up with. But what they'll never feature is 10 years of legacy code that was once maintained and given up on in favor of quick fixes or some new cool thing a developer found.

An exercise will never feature thousands of lines of code that are never fired or an obscure method that doesn't seem to do anything but breaks the codebase if removed. An exercise will never come running up to you demanding that you drop everything and FIX THING X RIGHT NOW. An exercise will never make you maintain boring legacy code. All of these are things you'll probably experience in a real environment and an internship is a good way to prepare for that.

Even if you don't improve any of your coding ability, you're still learning two valuable things. One is how to work in a corporate environment, even if it's one you don't particularly like. You're learning how to interact with more experienced people that aren't teachers. You're learning how to interact with less experienced people who are your boss. You're learning to deal with customers who don't just pretend not to know (as some teachers might) but who genuinely know just enough to break things and no more.
All of the above are valuable skills but not quite as valuable as the second thing you're learning.
The most important thing you're learning is whether you LIKE to work in an environment like this and if not, how to recognize it. Working in a shitty place or finding out you don't enjoy programming sucks but doing so after a month with little to no consequences is a lot better than finding out you've just spent years studying or after years hoping that 'this job will get better'.

Consider it a learning experience. Ask questions of your coworkers that aren't just about the problem you have right now. Learn from their mistakes and architecture. Ask why they designed a particular piece of software the way they did. And when you're done and you've stuck out the month, look back and evaluate this place.

Did it really suck? Cool, now you know where not to apply for a job in the future. Was it okay after all? Fantastic, maybe you've found your first job after your studies.

  • 2
    It's also a good learning experience in smiling and sucking it up while you work out your two weeks notice so you don't burn any bridges. Jul 25, 2017 at 17:41

So you're a student of some sort on an internship with a company and the company isn't pulling through on their part of the deal and providing you with mentoring?

It's time to contact the contact you have at your school/university and inform them of the situation, so they can take action. You should also go to your manager and ask why you're not getting the help you need.

As to your assignment being too hard, don't blame the company. The assignment will have been created based on what's expected of interns coming in with your expected level of education. If you don't have that knowledge, ask yourself what you missed in classes and labs to cause you to not have it.

And remember, a real job is harder than the cookie cutter lab assignments and programming examples you get at school. That's why professional software engineers get paid more than minimum wages. See it as an opportunity to improve your skill set, learn a thing or two. That's what an internship is for after all.


Given the short period of time that you have left, I would suggest as others have that you tough it out, and glean what knowledge you can. Always remember that you are learning way more than you realize in any given situation. I know that looking back there were many situations where I felt I was learning nothing, only to later find myself using some piece of knowledge I acquired in that seemingly useless situation. Also remember that you can always take another internship if this one doesn't seem satisfactory- two internships looks great on a resume anyways.

As an aside, unpaid internships are pretty atypical in this field, and I would consider that a major warning sign. Had you not started the internship, I would've suggested avoiding it on that basis alone.

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