frustrated that I’m having trouble turning my internship into a job

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A reader writes:

I am beginning to feel very frustrated with the nonprofit organization that I have been interning for the past six months.

My internship is supposed to end this Friday and the organization does not allow for internships to last more than six months. This January, I was told about a new part-time position opening up in the department I’ve been working in and was highly encouraged by the acting director to apply. The idea of hiring someone was thrown around a couple times in December, so I was really excited for the prospect of turning the internship into a job! The acting director gave me the job posting before it was made available to the public, which was extremely kind of her to give me the heads up. I was told that the organization has rules on promoting from inside and that the department needs to follow protocol to interview others outside of the organization.

The posting was finally made available sometime middle-to-end of February. I had followed up with the acting director a couple days after the submission of my application to see if she had gotten my resume and cover letter through email, because I figured I didn’t want to pester her in person. She came to me in person and reassured that I would get an interview soon. Finally, I received an email of my interview schedule the second week of March. I had the interview last Wednesday and everything went smoothly and was told that I will hear back latest by on Tuesday of this week.

I work there from Wednesday to Friday. Yesterday (Wednesday), I went into the office with the intention of asking about the hiring decision. As usual, everyone in the department was swamped with work (and so was I), so I didn’t have the chance to ask. The department is obviously understaffed, and they really need my help. I am continuously given the most tedious and silliest grunt work without pay. I didn’t mind it so much until recently because of the long time it took for them to interview me.

I don’t understand why they can’t make the hiring decision sooner. What frustrates me even more is that they had hired an paid intern for a more specific program in the department two weeks ago (I’m more of the general department intern). Now that there’s a paid intern, I feel like I am being undervalued for the amount of work I do and effort I put in. And often times, my supervisor gives me very short notice to complete projects because she was given a very short time by the people who she’s working with.

I don’t know if their intentions are. Do they think it’s okay to wait until the end of my internship, which is this week, to hire me? The job description stated that the position is temporary, lasting from February to June. February is over, and March is soon to be, too. I feel overwhelmed with the amount of work I’ve put in in the last six months and I am still unpaid! I understand everyone’s very busy with their work, but does it take that long to make this hiring decision? How should I handle this situation?

The problem here is that you’re assuming that they should make a hiring decision along your timeline, rather than on theirs, and that’s not how hiring works.

There are all sorts of things that can make hiring take a long time: assuring that the funding for the position will be available, resolving questions about whether the funding should go to this position or somewhere else, dealing with higher priorities that come up, interviewing candidates and checking references, waiting for decision-makers to be in town, and much more. (And wouldn’t you rather have them wait until they’re confident the position is fully funded than to hire you and lay you off in two months?)

The timeline for filling the position is going to be determined by what makes sense on their side, and how it fits in with other work they need to juggle. It’s not going to be determined by when you’d like it to be done. It might take far longer than what you were originally told; that’s normal. It might stall; that’s normal. It might get pushed aside because other things are more important to them right now; that’s also normal.

Moreover, it sounds like you’re thinking that the job is yours if only they’d hurry up and offer it to you, but there’s no guarantee that they’re going to hire you at the end of this. You were one of a group of candidates who was interviewed. It’s possible that the job will go to someone else.

You are sounding as if you feel oddly entitled to something that you’re not really entitled to. That has the potential to make you unhappy in a couple of different ways: If you really believe that you’re entitled to this stuff, you will be frustrated and unhappy when others don’t give it to you. And if it shows in your attitude at work, it will impact your reputation (and maybe their interest in hiring you).

I understand that you’re feeling resentful because you’ve been working all this time unpaid, but …. you agreed to that when you took the internship. They’re under no obligation to hire you, they haven’t made any promises to hire you, and you knew you were signing up for an unpaid role when you took the job. It’s not reasonable to be resentful that they haven’t converted you to a paid position. It’s not reasonable to be resentful when people don’t give you something they never promised you.

As for what you can do, go talk to the person in charge of hiring. Say that with your internship ending tomorrow, you’d love to get a sense of their timeline for making a decision, and whether you’re a finalist for the job or not. But that’s all you can do — you can’t push them to move any faster, and you can’t even reasonably expect them to move any faster.

Hopefully, you haven’t been counting on this position coming through and you’ve been conducting an active job search over the past few months. If you haven’t been, start that immediately and move on mentally from the idea of this position. If you end up getting it, it will be a pleasant surprise. If you don’t, you’ll be focused on a job search elsewhere anyway.

{ 83 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Runon

    It can be really hard to do this, but don’t assume this will turn into a job. It sounds concerningly like you’ve been counting on this. I really hope you’ve been actively seeking other positions, and if you haven’t been start now. Assuming you won’t get a position is the easiest way to continue through a job search. That doesn’t mean give up, it means try and then move onto something else. Don’t dwell on it or making assumptions.

    Good luck finding a job.

    Reply
  2. AJ-in-Memphis

    Well said, Allison. Interns should never assume that being hired as a full time employee is a guarantee. The purpose of most internships to give you experience and the company an extra person to help out. If you don’t get the job hopefully you can at least appreciate the experience they’ve given you and the fact that you had the opportunity at all.

    Reply
  3. Allison

    I’ve been there, I interned in state government for seven months, hoping I could eventually advance to a paid position. I kept my eyes open, applied to a position in another office, and made sure my superiors knew I was looking and that they had my resume. Eventually I had to take a job somewhere else so I could start actually earning money.

    It’s understandable and reasonable to take an internship hoping to turn it into a paid gig someday, unfortunately it doesn’t always happen. The most you can count on is something good for your resume and solid contacts in the industry.

    Reply
    1. Kate

      Yep. It’s stressful to be working for free and told that maybe a real job will open up, but there’s no clear path and timeline for that. I don’t hear entitlement in this letter; I hear frustration and panic. (That said, I wouldn’t recommend sharing these feelings offline, especially not at work. Not even in a watered down form.)

      OP, you’re going to feel a lot saner if you feel like you have other options available to you. If you aren’t already applying to other jobs, now’s the time to. Don’t worry about your employer finding out and thinking you’re not serious about their position. They expect you to be looking for paid positions wherever you can find them– that’s what interns do.

      Good luck!

      Reply
  4. AJ-in-Memphis

    This: ” The department is obviously understaffed, and they really need my help. I am continuously given the most tedious and silliest grunt work without pay.”

    I’d like to also point out that they don’t need *YOUR* help – they need *SOME* help. The intern is the lowest person on the totem pole and the grunt work is almost always theirs.

    I hope that you haven’t shown them this side of you – it’s not indicative of a team player but instead someone who thinks too much of themselves.

    Reply
    1. AdAgencyChick

      Agreed. If you’ve allowed your coworkers to see that you view the work as tedious and silly, don’t be surprised if the job goes to an eager beaver. Right now my department has an intern (paid) who is routinely given the grunt work that no one else wants to do — but it’s clear from his attitude that he understands that’s his job and is eager to learn about the company and the industry while he does it. THAT attitude makes me want to hire him for realsies when the time comes.

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    2. Elizabeth

      Also- it’s possible that you’re just not a good match for the position. Sometimes, being given exclusively grunt work is a sign that your employer doesn’t think you’re ready for more- and if that’s the case, there’s not going to be a job offer forthcoming. It may have been a courtesy interview.

      Reply
      1. Jessa

        Although I really hate it when companies do this. If they don’t think a person is right for a job they really should not string them along and let them think they might be either (courtesy interviews are a lousy idea.)

        Either the OP is completely ignoring signals that they’re not the one for the job or they’re really considering them and just taking time or they’re being nasty about it. It could go any way.

        A lot of people don’t get the signal when the bosses are passive aggressive about telling them they’re not doing well. And a lot of bosses like to make an intern think they’re on a hiring track when they’re NOT at all on one, in order to get more/better/extra special effort from them. IE more above and beyond than normal because the person thinks that’ll get them the job.

        On the other hand whichever the situation is, acting like you’re getting the grunt work (you should be you’re the intern,) or that you’re dissatisfied, or that OMG you think you should be getting the job already, in a way that the office knows it, is going to completely mess up your chances. Do NOT let them know that’s how you feel.

        Reply
        1. OP

          Actually, on my first day of work, my supervisor took me out to lunch and told me positively that the organization tends to hire many interns! And when this P/T opportunity came along, I took a chance. I have actively sought for feedback on my work performance. For the six months I’ve been here, I was told I am doing superbly.

          Though I did paint the grunt work in a negative light in my question, I have been doing all of it with a smile and enthusiasm. My supervisors have been all so helpful and kind, but I have to say, things often get pushed back here. I think what the supervisor should have done was to give a more realistic deadline for him/herself to make that hiring decision, seeing how much she has going on.

          Reply
  5. Andrea

    I agree with the advice here, but I have to say that if I were in the OP’s shoes, I might feel a little frustrated, too, because of the other paid internship. I’m wondering if that’s where some of this attitude is coming from. It’s one thing to accept an unpaid position, and indeed, many places only offer unpaid internships. And I’m not sure if this is exactly how it played out for the OP, of course, but if I’d accepted an unpaid internship at an organization where that’s the only kind of internships they offered, and then they had a new paid internship later on, it might make me feel some degree of frustration, even if I knew that it wasn’t about me. So I think I can understand. But the OP might have to chalk this situation up to just another learning experience that she got from this gig and move on. OP, it sounds like they like you, and so if a position doesn’t work out now, it still could later. Try to adjust your perspective and act accordingly.

    Reply
    1. CoffeeLover

      +1 I agree with everything you said.

      I would think the paid intern would be the most frustrating part, although that may be explained by the fact that she’s doing more specific work.

      Reply
      1. AMG

        Yeah, that would bother me. I would be able to get over it if the paid internship were more advanced than what I was doing, at least.

        Reply
        1. Jessa

          And I might at least broach the “can my internship be converted to pay” question if I had a boss that might be sympathetic to the conversation. But not in an entitled way, just “when I started there were only unpaid internships, I now see that there is money for paid ones, is my position eligible for that going forward?” kind of question.

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    2. glennis

      Don’t always assume paid vs. unpaid internships are about the value of the intern.

      Sometimes paid internships are paid because they’re funded by an outside organization. I work in the public sector, and we have several different internships. One that my department uses is a paid internship that is supported by our County’s Cultural Affairs Department. The intern would have no way of knowing it, since the County funds the position but the paycheck is still cut from our agency payroll. Yet another department has an unpaid internship related to their field.

      Reply
  6. Rachel Keslensky

    Ah, the old lie that “You can turn your internship into a job!” — in my case, I turned up with a job out of it, but it was only a minor improvement compared to what I was doing as a paid intern. (which, admittedly, sounds like it was a better job than what you’re up to.)

    Hiring for jobs falls apart for plenty of reasons, only so many of which are your own problems.

    (That said, I don’t think calling the reader “entitled” and insinuating it’s her fault for accepting a role that came with the implied promise of a job is the right way to go. Clearly she felt at the time that this was a good use of her time and energy, and is feeling underappreciated, exploited, etc., and going “Too bad, you knew what you were signing up for” does nothing to improve that situation.)

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m not saying it’s her fault for accepting a role that came with the implied promise of a job. First, I don’t think it DID come with the implied promise of a job. Second, none of this is anyone’s fault — it’s just the way hiring works.

      But I do think it’s useful to point out when someone is feeling entitled to something that they’re not actually entitled to, because that feeling can lead them to make bad judgment calls and harm their career. “Entitled” isn’t an insult; it’s a description of a state of mind that sometimes people have.

      Reply
      1. Malissa

        Exactly! It’s getting yourself out of the frame of mind that says, “I deserve this.” I know my career started going better when instead of saying, ‘I deserve this” I started looking at what, if any thing, I had done to earn it. From there real growth happens.

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      2. Kou

        I do understand, though, why the OP is frustrated. She probably feels like they are stringing her on a bit at this point since they already settled the matter with the other intern. Of course she’s only seeing the surface– not all the gears that had to turn for that to happen or will have to turn for this new decision to be made. But being in her spot is aggravating and she wants to know what she can possibly do about it. Even if they’re not going to hire her, she wants to know that. I think that’s perfectly reasonable.

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        1. Ron

          I can understand why she’s frustrated, but it’s short sighted and comes from her lack of experience in the work force. I too, interviewed for several jobs at a company where I interned and didn’t get any of them. I felt a little crushed at the time, and part of that was just desperation — the feeling that this is the only place where you have your foot in the door and that something might actually come through. I think she needs to start job searching seriously elsewhere. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Also, just as a side note, in hindsight, I’m really glad I didn’t end up getting a job at the company I interned for. I found one that gave me much more opportunity than I would have had there. Sometimes rejections point you toward something better.

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          1. fposte

            Right. She can be understandably frustrated and have slightly unrealistic expectations all at the same time.

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    2. Joey

      Where are you getting that it was an implied promise? I don’t see it. But if the op sees it like you do that’s a setup for disappointment.

      I didn’t mind it so much until recently because of the long time it took for them to interview me.

      I sense some entitlement also.

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    3. JT

      “the old lie”

      From reading the post, there was no promise of a job. Just promise of being considered. And apart from the timing, it sounds like they are considering the OP seriously.

      Being told to apply is not implying you will get the job.

      I also don’t even think the OP sounds particularly entitled to getting the job – but does want a decision faster than they’re able to give. I think she’s entitled to know the time frame – she’s inside, a friend of the organization, so they should tell her what’s up. If they can’t speed it up, so be it, but she should ask and they should tell what they know.

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      1. Allison

        I think that comment was referring more to a job-searching myth than anything specific to the OP’s case, other than the fact that the OP probably believed it. Yes, an internship or volunteer experience can be turned into a job, but there’s this myth that it’s super easy to do so, when in fact it’s largely up to chance (whether the office will happen to have an entry level opening while you’re there).

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        1. anon

          Yes! I wish people would stop giving this advice so that I would stop having awkward conversations with interns about how they are not going to be hired, because we rarely ever hire interns, because we are a small, fully staffed company – someone has to resign in order for us to bring anyone else on, and that is rare. Even though we beat them over the head with this and make it every clear, it seems like half of them still expect a job at the end. It’s so weird.

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          1. Jessa

            People hear what they want to hear, and it’s quite often nothing like what was said to them. You could paint a sign and hang it in front of their cubicle/office “You are not going to get a job here. Ever. Period. Full stop.” And they will still be on you about “so when do I get a job here?”

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  7. Malissa

    Silly and tedious work is still work that needs to be done. Do it with enthusiasm, or at least with a smile. If the impression is that you care about the small stuff, that’ll work hugely in your favor. I’ve seen two temp workers come through my office that couldn’t muster up enough care about the little things. This hurt them when permanent positions became available. One didn’t mail out half the stuff in a stack of papers that was clipped together because, “it didn’t look like it should go with the other stuff.” When I got called for a reference after the temp applied for a permanent position in another department, she didn’t get the job.
    The best thing you can do OP is to not let the disappointment get to you. Perform like you already get paid and you are happy to help.

    Reply
  8. Lisa

    Wait a second – I thought interns were required to learn something in their unpaid internships otherwise it is free labor.

    OP says “I am continuously given the most tedious and silliest grunt work without pay.”

    Doesn’t that violate the whole point of an internship? Is OP learning anything or are they filing, sharpening pencils, and cleaning the coffee pot as the only duties???

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Nonprofits are allowed to have unpaid interns, just as they’re allowed to have volunteers (subject to some restrictions, but not nearly as many as for-profit businesses).

      Reply
    2. Claire

      AAM has the legit answer, but I’d point out that “grunt work” could be a wide range of things. At my temp job, I handle bio updates and if 50 attorneys are named to the Awesomest Lawyers Ever 2013 list, I’m the one who’s going to end up going through the 50 bios changing years. I would definitely call it tedious and probably grunt work, especially if I was feeling frustrated about my lot in life, but it’s still work that’s important to the firm that needs to get done.

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    3. Chinook

      OP didn’t mention what the “tedious and silliest grunt work” is, so you are only assuming it is sharpening pencils and cleaning the coffee pot. Things like filing, data entry and even counting stock can be an opportunity to learn if the person sees it that way. I have learned more about how a company operates by doing some of these things as a temp. It also taught me how important labeling something correctly is for filing and how filling in forms correctly is for data entry (because garbage in is garbage out).

      The most tedious job I have ever done is laying out real estate ads at a newspaper but because I take everything as an opportunity to learn, I was able to learn how to fit readable type into a small area, how to overlay images and how not to swear at agents who want to fit too many words in a 1 x 1 inch area.

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      1. Kay

        I completely agree with you. Tedious work can suck, but it’s still an opportunity to learn, no matter what the work entails. If anything, just being in an office and seeing how it’s run can be a great opportunity for someone looking to get into an industry.

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        1. Jessa

          Plus if they do regularly hire interns or temps to permanent jobs, they are more likely to hire someone who does what they’re asked to without griping or complaint. As long as it’s reasonable.

          I did not see anything in the OP (now this could be because it wasn’t relevant,) but – has the OP asked to do anything else? Seen something that needed doing and gone “oh can I help you with that stack of whatever that I know from watching takes you two days to do alone? Is there anything else I can do now that I’m done with boring tedium a, b, c?”

          If they’re giving you short deadline stuff, it may be because they think you can HANDLE short deadline stuff. That in a lot of cases can be a compliment.

          And as for waiting til the internship is over, they may be required by their procedures to do so. Considering they said that they had “specific procedures.” Which of course would drive me nuts, because even if they have issues about hiring, I think applicants should be able to get a general concept of how long such a decision would take. I don’t think it’s fair to string people along with no end date at all.

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      2. Lisa

        You are right, I am assuming too much. But the OP said the ‘silliest grunt work’ so I assume it really is silly grunt work where as your mention of laying out real estate ads are learning. But would being the guy that sat in a warehouse cutting wood to make ‘open house’ posts be considered learning about real estate? Again assuming that the OP isn’t learning anything based on her comment of calling it ‘silly’ not so much about that the work is tedious / grunt work.

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        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Grunt work or not, it’s reasonable to assume that it has to be done. Organizations, especially busy ones, aren’t in the habit of having people do things that serve no point!

          That guy in a warehouse cutting wood isn’t learning about real estate, no. But he’s learning about whatever aspect of the business he’s involved in.

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          1. Lisa

            I can’t help but feel sorry for someone that might be being used as free labor under the guise of an internship, even if non-profits are allowed do this when for-profits aren’t. It just doesn’t sit well with me, and I would hope that if this is a college -course work related internship the advisor wouldn’t let it be something that they are not learning a skill or inner workings of a biz. The wood chopping example means the guy will learn his role is needed and a part of working in real estate, but would he need to chop wood for 6 months straight to learn that? I wish OP would come back and tell us what the silly grunt work is.

            Reply
            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I used to hire unpaid interns (for nonprofits) all the time, and they did do some grunt work. A lot of grunt work in some cases. I was clear with them before they were hired about exactly what the job did and didn’t entail. One of the major benefits was simply getting exposure to the issue we worked on and how a professional office works. They walked in on their first day fairly clueless and helpless and left knowing how to operate in a professional environment. That was the point.

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              1. JT

                Many interns in the department at the nonprofit at which I work surprisingly seem to like certain data entry work (“grunt work”) that uses specialized software because they can add that software as a skill on their resumes.

                They wouldn’t want to do it for days at a time, and we don’t ask them to, but for a day or so every few weeks doesn’t seem to bother them.

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    4. Lily in NYC

      We do give interns a lot of grunt work, but I don’t feel bad about it because the higher level people here that are full time have grunt work on their plate as well. Not all work can be a learning experience. We want to hire interns that are team players. We’ve had interns come in who act like some work is beneath them. We don’t even bother with them. It the one’s that do the work without complaint that get to be involved with the better projects once they’ve shown commitment. Guess which ones we are more likely to hire at the end of the summer?

      Reply
      1. JT

        Yes. Though I’ll add that some grunt work is learning – it’s learning to be precise and fast, to get into processes and mater them, and that details count.

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        1. Jessa

          And it’s learning to do grunt work gracefully. And to chip in to the team when needed. Learning how to do things you don’t want to do gracefully is a huge benefit.

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  9. AnotherAlison

    I kind of got a vibe that the OP is feeling that she’s being treated unfairly. Which, aside from than the fact that she needs a paying
    j-o-b, would lead me to think she should reconsider accepting an F/T job with that organization. From past experience, I know once resentment towards an employer takes hold (for bungled promotions, poor raises, etc.), it’s hard to shake, and that does not make for a good work life.

    Reply
    1. -X-

      I got laid off by my organization (pushed to being a contractor instead of employee by surprise) which annoyed me at the time.

      But I got my job back a few years later and am happy. Some of us can deal with (perceived) bad treatment if we understand it or it’s corrected.

      Reply
  10. Serena

    I think Allison has given good advice here. Me personally, I have never taken an unpaid internship so I guess I’ve never had to feel anxious over my internship turning into a paid one. And I always kept my job search going throughout my internships, even if they were going really well. You never know what will happen, and they specifically don’t give you guarantees when they hire you for the internship (unless of course you’ve got a seriously strong connection via cronyism/nepotism which doesn’t seem to be at play here for you).

    I wouldn’t say the OP is entitled, just could learn from this if in fact they receive no word on the status of the position and further aspects of the hiring process.

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    1. fposte

      I think “entitled” has come to be used to mean an overall attitude or approach rather than its literal specific. I don’t think there’s any indication that the OP is “entitled” in the overall sense, but she is discussing an open position as if she had more right to it than anybody else and as if the organization was supposed to have gotten it to her more quickly than they’re operating. But she’s not entitled to the position or to the organization moving any faster.

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      1. JT

        I actually think an intern inside an organization is entitled to a little more transparency about the timeline than an outsider. Not that they have to rush the process of hiring if they really can’t, but if they can, they should do so as a favor to the intern.

        And if they can’t, they should try to be more specific about the time frame than with an outsider. With an outsider it might be “We’ll get back to you in 2 to 6 weeks.” With an insider it’s “We got 200 other applications and at least 20 are strong. When Jill is back in the office next week she’s going to look through them, but in truth there’s no way we’ll be able to give you any indication before then. And with so many strong applicants, be sure you keep looking for work elsewhere in the meantime.”

        She part of the team and is owed some extra consideration as long as it doesn’t cost the organization much more in terms of time/money/choices.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I think we just disagree on the “owed” thing. I don’t think that an insider is actually owed any more on the process itself, and I’d actually get into serious trouble sharing to that extent with an insider candidate, because they’re only a candidate. I think that it’s annoying that they didn’t get back to the OP when they said, but that’s also job-hunting SOP, and the response to that is to shrug.

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  11. Tammy

    It also depends on the field you are in and budget. My son has interned for a recording studio for at least 2 years, part time. He took that job because it’s a prestigious studio and it will help him to have worked there, but not necessarily to get a job at THAT studio.

    It’s a very competitive field, and it’s just what you have to do if you want to get anywhere. Interning is not the promise of future employment that people seem to think it is.

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  12. Stacie

    If I were you, I would be very upfront about looking for a full-time paid job (and not with the internship company). I did this when I returned to my (paid) internship from the previous summer after I had graduated. I was upfront that I would need days off here and there for interviews and it made them see they didn’t want to lose a great intern and they had me fill a position in another department. Not saying that this will happen for you, but it may help them speed up their timeline if they do intend to hire you.

    Reply
  13. Lanya

    At my company, we use internships as a ‘trial run’ experience to see who we might want to hire next. Conversely, the non-profit I worked at for five years used interns solely as unpaid workers and never hired one of them, although they all had hopes and dreams of getting picked up. Alison’s advice to the OP is correct in that if you ultimately have no expectations, you will never be disappointed.

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    1. COT

      I think that nonprofits are in general less likely to hire an intern, just because they can’t find the money as easily to create new positions. Nonprofits are probably more dependent on unpaid interns (especially because the rules about work level are less stringent than for-profits’). It’s just not realistic for nonprofit interns to expect to get hired. It’s great when they do but sometimes the money’s not there to keep even a standout intern. My nonprofit hires our interns on occasion but there are plenty of other great ones that we’d love to have on our staff team if we could afford it.

      Reply
  14. Joey

    Now that there’s a paid intern, I feel like I am being undervalued for the amount of work I do and effort I put in

    Hey op,
    If this is your attitude get ready for misery no matter where you go. There will always be people who got a better deal than you.

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    1. glennis

      I already commented on this issue, but Joey’s comment compels me to add – paid vs. paid internships are not about value. Some internships are funded by outside agencies, some are not. The funding often comes from the outside agency, not the company where the intern works. My company has an arts internship funded by our County. Another department has an environmental internship that is supported by a university but is not funded.

      Reply
  15. fposte

    “Do they think it’s okay to wait until the end of my internship, which is this week, to hire me?”

    Yes, because it *is* okay. They may not even be ready to hire then; if you’re first choice and you’re still available in two weeks or whenever, that’s great, but the end of your internship is not a significant factor in their hiring schedule. I get that it would be great if you could just walk from unpaid into the job, but that is not something the organization is going to worry much about, and that’s why your schedule didn’t factor much into the hiring timeline.

    Additionally, they were waaaaay optimistic in saying they’d be back to you on Tuesday following a Wednesday interview (I’m guessing that’s where the acting director thing comes in–she may not realize how timelines like this really play out). Even assuming you were the final interview and nobody relevant was out on vacation, I would be expecting more like two weeks–and that’s if you were the first choice.

    Reply
  16. Mary C.

    @AJ-in-Memphis, I think you should give OP a bit of a break. OP is obviously stressed about the situation, which is why s/he wrote to Allison in the first place. As I was reading it, I got the impression that maybe OP thought the interview process was a formality, but as Allison said, one can never assume an internship will turn into a paying job. I’m not saying that doing the grunt work (however defined) isn’t a part of the bargain that OP made with organization when s/he took the internship, but often interns don’t have lots of previous work experience and that lack of experience with the office environment, including internal hiring/promotions and handling of office politics (i.e, having a paid and unpaid intern), could also have led to OP’s perspective about thinking the job is hers/his.

    OP, please note that even if there was discussion when you were brought in as an intern or a precedence at the organization for hiring interns into paying jobs, it still may not happen. As a former long-time temp (I had a few three to nine month temp jobs), almost every one was described to me during the interview as a temp-to-perm role. Funding ran out, fit wasn’t right, re-structuring of the department, etc. Things happen. It’s hard to be in a role that you think will turn out one way and have it not turn out that way. But in the end, whether you get hired for the job or not, just try not to burn bridges at the organization because of the path of the hiring process. I believe I burned a bridge at a former temp job because when the position funding ran out and I applied for a similar role in a different department and was not hired. I’m glad now because the department had high turnover (I thought, a job is a job, I need to pay my bills), but I was upset when i wasn’t hired and questioned my supervisor about it, which went nowhere. Point being, you’ve cultivated a hopefully positive reputation at your current organization and you want to stay working there. Maintain those relationships and keep those people in your corner whether you get the role or not. Because if not, they may be able to point you in the direction of a better fit or keep you in mind for a more specialized role in the future. You just never know, so keep your options open. Good luck.

    Reply
    1. Jamie

      This reminded me a lot of temping, also. I remember my first long term temp assignment (which was when I first entered the work force) and it was supposed to be temp for 4 months and then go perm.

      So of course I put it in my Outlook for 4 months and fully expected that day to have my paperwork done and be a direct employee. I was shocked, yes – shocked, when nothing was said all day. I mean I didn’t expect a cake or anything – but maybe a little welcome basket and a hug. Seriously though, by the end of the day I asked my boss about it and she got back to me the next day. They called me in and told me how awesome I was and how pleased they were with my work…but the temp to perm thing sometimes takes longer than they anticipated blah blah blah.

      My response? To ask why the verbiage from the start wasn’t such that it would indicate that it was a tentative start date. And I think I said something about it being a disingenuous way to do business…maybe…but I was totally stunned that no one thought to tell me this big deal wasn’t happening on day 120.

      I didn’t realize at that time the only person who thought that was a firm date was me. Who knew?

      So I thanked them graciously for the opportunity and all I learned there – and as far as I was concerned my contract was up as of day 120 (and it was now day 121) and I needed to pursue other opportunities. I know! Miraculously I ended up with excellent feedback from them and it was back in a different economy so I had another assignment before I got home that day.

      Honestly though – I couldn’t have tried harder to burn that bridge if I’d tossed a Molotov cocktail at it.

      Reply
    2. AJ-in-Memphis

      I love how posters on this blog go into defense mode when someone posts the harsh reality of things. I don’t have “give the OP a break” and neither do the people that she works for.

      This is good lesson for the OP. I was an intern and now I’m a hiring manager. As an intern, I wanted the job desperately, but I was not trying to control their hiring process or make them feel like “without me this work would never get done” – because I knew better. Attitude is everything – frustrated or not.

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        I actually think commenters here are more likely to support giving people an unvarnished look at the reality of things than to bristle at it, for whatever that’s worth. (I didn’t think your comment was inappropriately harsh, just direct, and I think the majority agreed with you!)

        Reply
  17. Katie the Fed

    You accepted the internship on the terms that were offered” unpaid grunt work. “I am continuously given the most tedious and silliest grunt work without pay” – that is BEING AN INTERN. We’ve all been there.

    Just hang tight. The decision often takes a lot longer than they originally thought. Tte job isn’t necessarily yours. Also, I suggest you proofread your emails – if your internal communications read like this letter, you’re not helping yourself.

    Reply
    1. New hire

      Is there something in particular that stands out to you about the the email? Aside from expressing frustration, I don’t see anything glaring enough about this email to suggest that the OP would have problems with internal communications. Is there something beyond tone that is an issue?

      Reply
      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        For what it’s worth, I did delete about a dozen exclamation marks at the end of sentences :)

        But I don’t see anything wrong with it aside from that.

        Reply
  18. Hous

    I might just be projecting here, but I wonder if this sentence indicates the hiring manager was much more definite with the OP than we’re giving her credit for: “I was told that the organization has rules on promoting from inside and that the department needs to follow protocol to interview others outside of the organization.” I would characterize my conversations with my manager about my recent move from temp-to-perm the same way; he told me they were required to post the position and conduct interviews, but I was going to be hired.

    If that’s the case, OP, and you’re feeling frustrated that, even though you have essentially been told you have this job, and it’s just a matter of following the company’s hiring procedure, you still have to wait. That totally sucks! But it really is a matter of having to do it by the book. I was fortunate that, since I was a temp, I was still getting paid (albeit significantly less), but this kind of thing can unavoidably take a long time with the red tape, even if everyone in your department also thinks it should be as easy as “here is a person who is working for us, why can’t we just hire her.”

    If it helps, I was a temp for a year before I was hired, and the time between applying for my position (which took several months to be posted) and starting work as a permanent staff member was five months.

    Reply
    1. Kou

      I agree. OP was approached and encouraged to apply before the position was advertised, and they explained the process to her as if outside advertising was just a formality they had to go through. I doubt they really made any promises (as people have been mentioning above) but I absolutely see how someone, especially someone new to their career, would feel strung along after that. None of that is a guarantee or even much of an indication of anything, really, but it could certainly feel that way.

      Like a lot of people who write in about interviews, OP wants to know if there’s something about their candidacy they’re supposed to be getting from this exchange.

      Reply
  19. Jill

    I think what is at the core of this too could be naivety…we can realistically assume the OP is young and the fact is, aside from this blog and other sparse resources, people fresh out of college do not get the proper information about job hunting. I am recently out of school and the ideas I had about the real world and job hunting were ridiculous and I’ve been knocked down a peg or two as time has gone on. I know that when your new you read into every little detail, make things a bigger deal when they mean nothing and that might contribute to the OP current attitude about her internship. I know I’ve been there and the “entitled” feeling if you want to call it that can harm you because even if working there you have learned a lot and been given positive feedback etc it unfortunately doesn’t mean that someone 10x more qualified than you will be asked to interview. It is harsh but it is realistic. The #1 thing you should take from all of the advice is that you NEVER stop looking for a job until you have a firm job offer in writing in your hands. I hope you find something great soon!

    Reply
    1. FiveNine

      I agree with everything you’ve said. I also can’t imagine interning for half a year! With no pay! I understand that’s the reality now, but it just is so far removed from what internships were, at least in my field, 25 years ago. Three months (a summer) tops — and even then, all but my very first internship were paid.

      I guess I’m wondering whether, in addition to the almost certain dose of naivety on the OP’s end, if many of us are just too far removed or never really were exposed to the nature of internships in the form many of them seem to take now to really be able to respond with much sympathy.

      Reply
      1. Tinker

        Yeah, I’m with you there. Hearing about these things, I really admire the work ethic of kids these days, because if I found myself in a situation where I was expected to emulate a full-time employee in every aspect except the getting paid part I’d be apt to bite someone.

        Reply
  20. Rana

    OP – here are another couple of reasons why you should be looking for other positions elsewhere, while you work.

    First, if you continue working at one place, you’re missing the chance to gain exposure to other workplaces in your industry, and run the risk of becoming one of those annoying people who thinks that the way they did it at Company X is the way it’s done across their industry. I know that this place, and this job, is familiar to you, but you’re at the beginning of your career, so a broader base isn’t a bad idea.

    Second, assume that you do get the job. At this point you’ve been feeling irritable and worried, and somewhat disappointed in your supervisors’ perceived inability to keep you in the loop, give you meaningful work, and take your concerns seriously. What makes you think this will go away if you’re hired? Even if their behavior is just the result of this one situation, and not a pattern, you will have to be able to forgive them for the hurt and frustration you felt, if it’s not to color the remainder of your working relationship with them. Is this something you’re able to do? To just let it go and move ahead? If not, you need to move on, to a place where your relationship is a fresh slate, and not one marked up with past frustrations and disappointments.

    Reply
  21. OP

    Thank you for all of your input! I am OP and I’d like to clear up some things, since some of my words and attitude towards this situation are lost in translation.

    “Sense of Entitlement”
    I feel frustrated but not entitled. I understand that nothing in life is 100% guaranteed. However, I do believe that I have a leg-up since I’ve been doing a lot of projects and following up with certain things at the office that no one at the department has been doing before I came in. In that sense, I feel like working there for six months has given me some experience/background of how the department and organization works, therefore, in my opinion, that by hiring me, the staff could skip the training that would’ve been needed for the new hire. And I’ve really came to gain a lot of institutional knowledge, which came with six months time interning there. At the end of all of this justification to myself on why I should get the job, I know I am competing against other candidates. Therefore, I am not promised a job.

    Actively Looking for Other Employment
    I don’t want to pigeon-hole myself, so I’ve been looking elsewhere. As most people said, I certainly don’t want to end up not having this job and having no employment at all! So far, no luck!

    The Other Paid Intern Situation
    The other intern that has been hired for a specific program isn’t doing much more advanced things than I am. In fact, my supervisors have requested that I train her on some things that I was working on, but for her specific program. I get the feeling that my supervisors are mostly trusting me to train the new intern, and a little bit of freeing themselves of teaching the new intern. I am feel great that they entrust me with this task, but at the same time, disappointed that being the unpaid intern teaching the paid intern.

    Naivety
    I really appreciate someone pointing that out. Yes, I am naive in expecting them to be on time in making the hiring decision. One thing I have been struggling with is whether I should look for jobs in other industries that will allow me to gain transferable skills. Ultimately, the organization where I am interning is in the field I’d like study in graduate school and eventually carve a career out of. I would love for any advice on this.

    Grunt Work
    On multiple occasions, I had to run errands like picking up items all over the city, hand delivering mail. I know that these things would come with being an intern, but I don’t think I am learning from this… That’s just plain labor. On the other hand, I am learning from other types of grunt work, such as using the database to search for information. Everything I do, I do it enthusiastically.

    @Katie the Fed, I am curious to know what things stood out to you that made you feel I might have internal communications problems.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      1) This explanation gives me the sense of entitlement. That is not necessarily a bad word, it’s just clear that you expect & feel you deserve this. You very well might – but companies hire for their needs, not yours! Keep in mind that your experience with the company isn’t a guarantee. We know nothing about your performance other than your words, so…….

      3) And so? As other posters have pointed out, funding can be a tricky and particular thing.

      5) That’s why it’s grunt work! Many things can be learned from it, many things can be demonstrated with it.

      Reply
    2. Jamie

      I feel like working there for six months has given me some experience/background of how the department and organization works, therefore, in my opinion, that by hiring me, the staff could skip the training that would’ve been needed for the new hire. And I’ve really came to gain a lot of institutional knowledge, which came with six months time interning there.

      I understand your thoughts that it would save training on the front end, and it would…but you need to keep in mind that if you were able to gain as much institutional knowledge as you state in only 6 months of this position – the position is entry level and easily trained. I wouldn’t shy away from an outside candidate just to save a couple of weeks of training.

      It’s different if it’s an upper level position where there is a LOT of training before you even know how someone will work out.

      I understand your frustration – but there is a danger in over-estimating your own value. I’ve done it when I was new to the workforce – it’s not a judgement and definitely falls into the naive and not moral failing categories – but it’s something I think a lot of us are picking up on in your verbiage and you should be aware it can be off-putting.

      Reply
  22. OP

    I get to mention, my supervisor was kind enough to let me know that she meant to get back to me by today, but things got in the way. I should be hearing back by early next week.

    Reply
  23. KM

    Six months is a long time to work somewhere without getting paid, so I understand why the OP feels entitled to SOMETHING — it’s total BS to have someone on an unpaid internship that long (or, in most cases, at all). It’s all very well to say that the OP agreed to it, but there are some things you shouldn’t ask of people in the first place, because you’re taking advantage of them.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      But they didn’t hunt her down and ask her to do it–she applied to do it, in an established internship program that would give her industry experience and a reference. I don’t see how you can consider that taking advantage any more than volunteering is.

      Reply
  24. Anonymous

    So there’s something that seems rather glaring to me that nobody is commenting on and I’m wondering if it’s because I read it wrong?

    The paid temporary position for which OP could be hired is supposed to run for specific months (Feb to June). But Now we’ve been through 2 of those months…
    I know that the actual months could be more flexible and it’s actually about the length of time, but I’ve noticed this kind of thing before when applying to internships which, for obvious reasons, can really only happen during certain stretches of time. After all, you wouldn’t want to have to take off a whole quarter or semester from school just to finish up a month or so of your internship! But I’ve seen a lot of these decisions get pushed WAY past the dates that they need to be happening. I know it must mostly be that “it takes longer than you expect” thing, but it always seems very odd and confusing to me! Is there anyone hereabouts who can comment on that kind of process? Like why it’s not just cancelled? ‘Cause to me that would make sense. And if it’s for something like an internship or non-specialized (?) temporary role then why not just go ahead and take a leap once you’re past your deadline?

    Reply
    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It doesn’t sound like an internship, but an actual job, so it’s probably not tied to school semesters. I’d assume they need a particular amount of work done and it’s more about the length of time than the particular months. So they get to it when they get to it, and that works fine for them.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Sure, but for learning’s sake what about those positions that do need to be during a certain time? Certain kinds of contract work, freelance, or internships. Say, a season-specific kind of position where past a certain date it’s just not likely a kind of job would even exist?

        And does that sound like poor management (for those cases) or is it more like an, “eh, it happens” sort of deal?

        Reply
        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Those are such the minority that it’s hard to give a helpful answer. It’s much rarer for those to keep getting pushed off, but if they do, it’s certainly the employer’s prerogative to decide whether they can live with the delay or not. In some cases they might decide it makes sense to cancel it altogether, and others they might decide it’s still worth continuing. But again, it’s much rarer than the other type.

          Reply

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