Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How Do You Find Ways to Stay Motivated in an Unhappy Internship?

I think the biggest issue for me is that no one cares about the work I’m doing. It’s been hard to find intrinsic motivation because the work isn’t inherently interesting or challenging, but as an intern I kind of expected that. What makes it difficult, for me at least, is that the work I do doesn't seem crucial to the operation of the mag. Mostly, I'm working on small blog posts that are nice but unnecessary.

Often, I feel like my editor has to search for things for me to do. I almost feel annoying asking for work sometimes, because I think he spends more time searching for tasks for me than he saves by having me do them. Even when I am given a task, it rarely comes with a deadline or any sense of urgency, and occasionally I think my editor just makes things up to get me to stop asking (like when he tells me to research something for a potential front of the book story for the February issue).

The worst feeling, though, at least for me, is that because my work isn’t urgent or crucial, I sometimes feel like more of an annoyance than a necessary addition to the office. And I know I’m an intern, and interns don’t usually have critical roles. But the way this mag runs, I can leave for hours and no one will notice. (I didn’t just leave work, of course, but I did go to a day-long presentation I had cleared with my ed first. When I came back, I had no new emails, no missed calls, and my ed hadn’t even noticed I wasn’t there.)

I've talked to the assistant editor about this (she's the one who I had lunch with early on and who is also new to the mag), and she sympathizes, but doesn't have much for me to do, either. I'm trying to find a way to get more involved, but it's hard because I'm still learning how the mag operates, and no one has taken me up on my lunch offers yet!

I don’t want to be negative, but I need help, Edsters! How do you stay motivated? I want to do a good job and I want to learn everything I can, but without deadlines, a challenge or at least the sense the mag needs me in some small way, I’m having a hard time enjoying this internship as much as I want to. Advice on making the most of it?

Until next Wednesday,
Edit Intern


  1. I'm actually really glad that I read this. I've been stressing myself out over a great offer I got from Fitness Mag/Ladies' Home Journal, where she gave me the impression that I'd actually be needed... Or a more bitch-like intern position at a (slightly) more prestigious magazine. You just solidified that decision to the former.
    As far as advice, I'm sorry to say that I don't have much for you. Your motivation could be less of the importance of your work, and more about building connections. Everyone knows that the way to break it into any industry is through networks. It would be great if you had some responsibilities to brag about, but since you don't, just concentrate on being outgoing and amiable. Look around at all the prestigious editors and keep telling yourself... "One day, that will be me."

  2. Why don't you come up with bigger blog post ideas and pitch them to your editor? Or go on your mag's Twitter or Facebook page and analyze what your company could be doing better? As an editor myself, I would appreciate those kinds of things. Send lists of potential article topics with outlines of what they could focus on. Hope these ideas help. They will show your boss that you're thinking and that you "get" the mag.

  3. OMG! i went through this my spring semester!

    what helped me throughout each day at the internship was to say 'hey, i'm here[and worked HARD to get here] what else can i get more out of this?" or "who else can i meet in the dept/building that will help me learn more or give me different work to do."

    most of this meant, staying late after working with my supervisor and asking many questions to others outside of my dept. I even came in a Sunday to chat with someone, crazy!

    Also, if you're getting credit remember that is a perk too and ALL is not lost. :)


  4. Agreed with Traci ... come up with bigger ideas and pitch them to your eds. andother smart project you can do is competitive research ... look at their competitors' sites and take notes ... what are they doing that works? What could your magazine or their site "borrow" from these other sites? Then pull together a report that highlights all these things. You could even pitch this project to your ed before you start -- i'm sure she'd be relieved, now that she won't have to think of things for you to do. or you can even do smaller projects ... have you noticed that their magazine library is messy? organize it. does someone need help with filing? come up with a new system. all this helps in a very important way. and you'll get excellent references. ;)