I am currently working as an intern (with a good pay).

I have had trouble on my project, and took more time than what was expected of me to find what was wrong with a part of it. Now the deadline is coming, and I know I can't make it. Since the internship is almost over (2 weeks left), and I'm not studying in the same city, I can't continue working for this company after it is done.

I am not supposed to work more than X hours per week, and I am not entitled to any sort of overtime. On the other hand, the schedule is flexible, so it is possible to work more hours on certains days and fewer on other, as long as we do X hours a week. In that case, I could work about 5-6 extra hours while still staying withing the allowed work hours, before that deadline.

I care a lot more about making a good impression on my employers, so that I can either get hired there after I'm done with school, or at least get a decent recommendation, than I care about the money. I wouldn't mind at all working those extra hours and not saying anything, so essentially doing those hours without pay.

My main question is: Are there are downsides, like breaking some sort of law (I am in Canada), to doing this unpaid overtime without saying anything, to make the deadline? On the other hand, how bad would it be for me if I failed to do it on time, when talking about recommendation letters and resumes?

They originally thought this project would take 2 days for a full time employee, so they gave me a week to do it. Since I couldn't finish, they gave me an extra week, but mentioned that this was the longest they could give me, because after that my manager (who has to see the project to give his ok) will leave for some time, and we probably won't see each other before the end of my intership.

I know I'm a lot behind schedule, and I am fully accepting that it is my fault. I didn't know the programming language very well, so ran into many unexpected problems that I didn't solve fast enough.

  • 11
    Does your employer KNOW you're worried about making the deadline? Because if not, telling them is your first priority.
    – Erik
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 22:19
  • Well, he knew I didn't make it last week, but I foolishly said back then that an extra week would be enough.
    – Kaito Kid
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 22:24
  • 3
    Then contact them asap and tell them you're worried about the deadline. Then suggest your overtime plan, if you really think that'll solve the problem.
    – Erik
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 22:25
  • Was the original deadline reasonable/realistic to begin with? Was it given by you, or by someone with less understanding of the work and/or not doing the work?
    – code_dredd
    Commented Jul 25, 2017 at 23:21

4 Answers 4


Tell your manager ASAP. They knew your qualifications when they hired you and estimating the amount of time necessary to complete a job is something that comes from experience so they shouldn't be upset as long as you make them aware of the problem while there's still time for them to do something about it.There's a reason interns are paid less than salaried employees. Just think of it as a learning experience. I'd be more likely to give a recommendation to someone who's hardworking and honest than a coding savant who lacks these qualities.

Also, tell them you're willing to volunteer extra time to get the job done. Even if they decline, it'll make you look good.


Keeping management informed is your best course of action. It will give them time to do something about it. Maybe they will assign a 2nd team member to help you. They can at least tell the customer, in advanced about the delay so your company won't take a bigger hit to their reputation.

Keeping it secret, and surprising someone at the last minute will surely end badly especially if you want references.


The downsides to unpaid overtime are twofold: The one and obvious downside is that you are working and not getting paid for it. That's something that you should avoid through all your career.

The second and less obvious one depends on your location. In some countries it is illegal for an employer to not pay you for the work that you are doing, and you can sue them for years afterwards. So an employer might be very unhappy if you do unpaid overtime without their knowledge. And not allow you to do unpaid overtime with their knowledge.


Assigning more hours of your flexible work week ahead of the deadline is not only showing you re a professional employee dedicated to get to the end target but also has the up-side of you not having to work more in the end.

Thats a win- win scenario in my opinion.

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