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I'm in internship hell. How do I get out? Add to ...

Dear Corporate Governess
I took a paid internship with a corporation thinking I’d learn something, but I haven’t. How do I change this into something positive?
–Lucie V., Toronto

Dear Lucie
Take a look at the structure of your internship. If you’re picking up your colleagues’ freshly pressed pants instead of doing your job description, you need to speak up. An intern should be more than a cheap fill for labour shortages. Since you’re being paid, let’s assume the company’s intentions are honourable and they do want to train you. However, sometimes staff simply don’t know what to do with interns. Despite having a program, a company may fail to communicate to everyone why an intern is there. Again, it’s about speaking up, so take the initiative. Make eye contact to show you’re interested in getting to know your colleagues and learning what they have to offer. That’s how you get a mentor and build a network that can help you later.

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You may also be expecting too much. Lauren Friese, founder of Talent Egg, a career website for students and recent graduates, says the shift from an academic environment – where you were constantly challenged and getting feedback through grades – to an entry-level role can leave you feeling isolated. But not all work will be interesting and challenging. She suggests asking your manager if there’s anything extra you can do. “The best way to show your employer you’re capable of more is to be excellent at what you do today,” says Friese. “Go above and beyond to showcase that you’re an enthusiastic, positive and easy-to-work-with team member.”

Good luck with turning it around. If nothing else, this experience will fatten your resumé.

Dear Corporate Governess
My personal friendship with a colleague has created some awkward work moments – particularly when I have to critique him. Any advice on handling this?
–Jaden B., Montreal

Dear Jaden
Just be yourself rather than “the boss” – with the same respect and touch of millennial sweetness (your name was a giveaway) that I hope you show everyone. No Don Draper here. Traditional hierarchy has been breaking down anyway over the past few years, given the trend toward collaboration, open-concept offices and the CEO in denim parked at the next desk. But it’s still your job to deliver criticism when needed.

That should be face-to-face, where you can both pick up on tone and expression. You want a real give-and-take kind of conversation that invites problem solving. No messaging, e-mail or phone. Choose a quiet moment and a private spot where you can sit down together. Coffee would be nice (alcohol plus criticism is a road to tears or a punch in the nose), and sandwich a little praise between the tough love. If you’re feeling self-conscious, go ahead and say so. He probably is too and will appreciate the honesty. Keep it balanced and you won’t be stuck eating lunch alone.

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