Is It Time to Quit Your Internship?

It may be time to pack up your bags leave

Businesswoman looking at stack of files
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In certain circumstances, quitting an internship is the right thing to do. However, it can be difficult to recognize if it is truly time to quit your internship and to know how to do so professionally.

Make a Rational Decision, Not an Emotional One

First, never leave a job or quit an internship in the heat of the moment. You must take an objective look at the situation and weigh the pros and the cons of quitting. All jobs and internships can be challenging, and it pays to persevere. However, it may be time to leave if you have exhausted all avenues that might make the situation a beneficial one.

An internship that is causing you stress should be dealt with early before it becomes unmanageable. Discuss your concerns with others who know and understand your role and who you trust to give you an honest response. Talk to mentors, others in the industry, counselors, and teachers. Make sure that what you suspect to be the case actually is the case before decided to end an internship. Most importantly, your health is paramount, and if you are feeling sick on a Sunday night because you are dreading Monday morning, it is a sign that leaving is the best choice.

When Quitting an Internship Is a Good Choice

Here are four good reasons to quit an internship.

  1. When you feel threatened or unsafe.
  2. When your personal values are being compromised.
  3. When you feel exploited or disrespected on the job.
  4. When the company is involved in illegal practices or unethical behavior.

If you feel threatened or unsafe in the workplace, leave immediately. You are under no obligation to stay, and your safety is more important than anything else. If you feel uncomfortable with what you are being asked to do, the corporate culture is not one in which you can thrive, and it is best to find another environment that better shows your enthusiasm and abilities.

If you are not respected or feel exploited, again, the culture is not a good fit, and there may be little you can do to remedy the situation. Make sure to seek the opinion of others to confirm that what you think you are experiencing is not just a steep learning curve or a case of having to perform menial work before you can progess to more interesting tasks.

If the company is involved in illegal practices or unethical behavior, extricate yourself quickly and cleanly. Do not make waves or become involved in the politics. Think of a good reason for leaving that will avoid your employer thinking badly of you. Although you might not want any type of reference from the company or to be associated with it, you also don't want to experience repercussions for refusing to be an aider or abettor.

When Working it Out Might Work

There are situations where a bad situation can be remedied. For example, if you are encountering problems working with a supervisor or a co-worker, or if you feel that you are being discriminated against or experiencing some form of harassment, the help of an HR person could help. If an internship is not what you expected, it might still be of value. If you are bored with little to do, it might be possible to be reassigned. If you are struggling to keep up with the workload, a manager should help if made aware of your problem.

For problems with a co-worker, try talking to that co-worker to see if you can work things out. Talk to your supervisor if you don't manage to resolve the problem. If the problem is with your supervisor, discuss the issue with an HR representative or a senior manager. It takes more courage to address a problem than to run from it, and the experience of doing so will build your confidence and poise in the future.

Similarly, if you are not being challenged by your work, talk to your supervisor to see if anything can be done. If not, that is grounds to leave because you are learning nothing. If you are overwhelmed, and you have discussed the situation with a manager to no avail, that too is grounds for leaving because the stress that you will experience will be detrimental to your health.

If you decide to leave your internship, write a respectful resignation letter, and do your best to leave the organization on a positive note.