So last week I started a new internship at a pretty larger company. I was assigned to a department of maybe 15ish people for which there is one manager. I was also assigned a mentor, who apparently didn't know I was coming until my my first day. During my first week I expected to do some reading/learning about what they do and then go over my first task with somebody, and I got some reading and a first task assigned to me but nobody really sat down and talked to me about the task. My mentor briefly told me what the tasks goal was and that i would be working on it. He doesnt really know too much about the task otherwise.

On my second day I had read through everything I was given and started looking at the documents for the task I was given. I then asked my manager a general question about the direction I should go with the task. His response was brief and general list of things to do. Then he said he thinks it may be a little too deep for me and I should continue to read (at this point though I was re reading pretty random things I was given to read when I finished my initial reading). This 5 minutes conversation is also the most my manager has talked to me so far.

No one has talked to me about the task the rest of the week. I dont think anybody else knows what I should be doing either. Should I start working on the task?

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    Is there anything actually preventing you from working on the task or making a start on your list of things to do? Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 14:59
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    I guess what is preventing me from starting is that last I talked to my manager he said to hold off on starting it.
    – user74671
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 15:04
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    Did your manager explicitly tell you "do not work on this task until I tell you"? From your description, I don't get that impression. It sounds more like he thought you are not ready for it and you should read more, gain the required understanding, and then continue the task.
    – Masked Man
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 16:34
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    I agree with @masked man, and would add that if you begin on the task, the questions that arise out of the work may be more focused, and so elicit better answers from your coworkers and manager. It is always better, in my opinion, to show initiative and start on something you need to accomplish, rather than do nothing because you are waiting for someone to tell you to start.
    – magerber
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 21:21
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    I think my plan will be to try to get started on the task as best I can. Also I can talk to him to get some clarity on the last conversation and see if he actually didnt want to begin. I feel like communication would be helpful. If he really thinks the project is still "too deep" (his words) then I would like to know what to read about specifically to help me (he previously just told someone to find things to send me)
    – user74671
    Commented Aug 26, 2017 at 23:50

3 Answers 3


Welcome to the real world. I cannot stress enough that you must have patience. It's very possible that, right now, no one has time to get you started. That will change. The last thing you want is for anyone there to think of you as a pest. So, proceed as best you can following the instructions as they have been given to you. Try to go out to lunch with other employees and see if they would share anything about what they do. They may ask you what you are doing and you should feel free to tell them. You may very well find someone who wants to put you to work right away and you might find yourself working on something else. But, be sure to check with your manager if something else surfaces. Work is a social thing. Above all else, be polite and don't say anything about your manager to anyone. Also, 15 people is a lot for one manager to supervise. He is likely very busy.


There is some responsibility on your end too to get things going. As an intern, I was routinely given instruction at the beginning of each shift. If I finished my work early or needed further guidance, I talked with the program coordinators about it.


Your manager is probably figuring out how you cope with tasks and how much you can handle. They also might not have a lot of time for you (right now, or in general) and maybe they just want to keep you busy your first days.

See your first tasks as an opportunity to get to know the organisation and your colleagues!

What you should do:

  1. Listen to your managers' advice and dive deeper into the topic and you task. Go and get all the information you need on the topic, that's also a good way to meet new people in the organisation. Ask around and socialize a bit.
  2. Ask for expectations. Report briefly to your manager what you found out and how you plan to execute the task. Most important, find out why the task needs to be executed and what the goal is. Ask your manager for his expectations.
  3. Execute your task & get more workload. Now when you complete your task succesfully, ask for more work. This should also be easier since you've come to know more people.

Concerning your mentor, I'd ask him for a mentoring-plan (e.g. what you'd have to learn and achieve). If he can't help you with this, I'd find out who can help you with your 'career plan' within the company. It doesn't seem like your mentor is committed to his role as a coach.

If they don't put effort in guiding you, be pro-active and get what you need from them to get/execute work.

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