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Running out of work during your internship/co-op

When mid quarter evaluations are sent to students who are on a co-op or internship assignment, 95% of the responses are favorable for the learning experience both technically and professionally. However, there are those instances where students write back to me complaining that there is often “not enough” work to do. The reasons vary: supervisor travels and is very busy to monitor workloads or the project has ended or is at a point where testing is causing delays. Whatever the reason is that you find yourself with little engineering work to do while you’re at your co-op or internship, there are things you can do to improve this situation.

• First, I’d be sure to plan ahead and be sure to have regularly scheduled meeting times with your mentor/supervisor. Perhaps, this could be bi-weekly and if not available in person, utilize emails with agenda items and specific areas of interest you’d like to communicate.
• Get to know the staff and responsibilities of other engineers. Let your time availability to help others in the work group be known to your supervisor and see if you can be of assistance to the other engineers.
• Find out what training programs are provided by your employer and see if you are eligible to participate in those that apply to your job. For example, there are a lot of online courses made available to employees to complete; check those out.
• Get involved: find out about mentorship programs (official or unofficial) at your facility; participate in the social & work events offered for co-op or interns to learn more/network.
• Take on the data crunching (less glamorous) engineering work – yes, that is part of engineering work, too. Experiencing the total picture of being an engineer is a learning experience.

"If you don't like something change it; if you can't change it, change the way you think about it."
-Mary Engelbreit

Authored by Olga Stavridis.