Internship Exodus: 4 Exit Strategies When Fail Happens

Internships, like many relationships in your career and life, all eventually come to an end. However, they don’t all go as well as you may have expected. Sometimes, an internship just doesn’t work out – and you may need to leave earlier than originally expected.

Expected – or expectations – is the key word here: often, problems arise is when expectations are not met by one or the other party. Interns can become frustrated when they aren’t using their skills to the fullest, and when they believe their contributions aren’t appreciated or given serious consideration. Frustration can also arise from employers when it becomes apparent the intern doesn’t have the ability or interest to perform well in his role.

If you find yourself in a challenging mismatch of expectations, how you leave your internship – no matter the circumstances that lead to the decision – is just as important as your performance during your internship! How you handle this situation a great learning opportunity, as well as a chance to demonstrate your maturity.

In this order, consider what appear to be the four most common options (some much better than others!) for leaving your internship early:

The “Do-Over” Discussion

Readjusting the assignment and the expectations of both parties is always an option; communicate with your mentor to assess whether your role needs to change. Sometimes this conversation results in a redefined role; other times the result is a mutual agreement that it’s time to part ways.

Either way, engaging in this discussion is a good thing! This process shows your maturity and your ability to assess and openly discuss your strengths and weaknesses. In taking this route, you may have developed a life-long mentor – rather than a bitter boss.

The Commitment (The Right Way)

You may decide to stick it out to the end of the internship – and then move on. You’ll give your best effort and learn as much as you can… even though you know there isn’t a good fit.

So… do that. No complaining on Facebook. No victim statements. You can’t make this commitment on the inside and be miserable on the outside. “Sticking with it” is an emotional commitment as much as it is intellectual… so keep your emotions in check – and truly do your best. This employer – and your next – will have far more respect for you, and be far more willing to recommend you, with this approach.

The Ol’ “Spending More Time with Family” Excuse

Sometimes it’s necessary to call it a day, take the high road and issue the proverbial “Time to spend more time with my family” announcement. What this cliché really says when uttered by coaches and executives trying to explain their decision to leave: “Time to move on – on my own terms.”

Your situation may just call for the well-written, professional “thank you for the opportunity, I must take my leave” note.  There is nothing wrong with this approach; it is a natural part of the business world – and we can guarantee this won’t be the last time you are in this situation in your career. Help maintain good relations with your current employer – by taking the high road.

The Hissy Fit

The last resort… you might also quit suddenly, take your toys and go home. Quitting outright without notice or communication (or the virtual equivalent – not returning your supervisors’ emails, phone calls and texts) is not only immature and unprofessional, it may entail unforeseen long-term effects.

Professional circles – especially within recruiting – are really small; especially with social media – everybody knows everybody. News of use of the hissy fit option with one company will reach others. Trust me on this: that is not the way you want to end this internship – or begin your career.

As hard as you work at making a good impression to convince someone to hire you, there are times when you may need to reassess your internship. How will you conduct yourself? How will your boss perceive your actions? How will you create a positive last impression?

Leave with class. You, your mentor – and your career – will appreciate the extra effort.



About the Author: Joe Gagliano, a founding member of YouTern and our CMO, brings years of start-up management, strategic planning, marketing and market research experience to the team and his blog posts. Joe, who runs our learning center for interns, also brings a passion for start-ups, entrepreneurship and mentorship to our team.



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