Should I Take a Boring Internship?

Dear J.T. & Dale: I applied for a few spring internships and only heard back from one. The interview went well, and I feel I’ll get the position. Unfortunately, this internship is the least interesting of the three I applied for. Even though I don’t think I’ll enjoy myself, should I take it? — Ryan

Dale: Well, Ryan, my first choice for this spring would be to play point guard for the Boston Celtics, but I haven’t heard back, so I guess I’ll do something less enjoyable. Here’s the point: What are your alternatives? You don’t have any? Get some. Accept the internship, but meanwhile keep looking. And while “interesting” is one good decision criterion, I wouldn’t ignore the bigger question: Will the internship help advance you toward an energizing first-career job?

J.T.: I had a college senior approach me last year with the same dilemma you’re facing, Ryan. He wanted to get into event production, and applied for a number of internships. However, the only offer he got was from a local DJ company, owned by an older gentleman whose business was declining and who was looking for young people to help breathe life back into his operation. The office and company seemed lifeless, and the work boring — in short, NOT an exciting prospect. But I told the student that it was PERFECT. He was shocked, until I explained why: This was an opportunity to showcase his strengths by really helping a business and thus having an experience he could effectively market when looking for a job after college. He and another intern spent the summer helping the company land new gigs and implement new marketing. He developed lots of contacts, learned a lot about the financial side of the business, and came away thinking it had been an ideal experience.

Dale: Great example, and you know what? There’s a life lesson in that story: There’s nothing more engaging, more enlivening — more truly interesting — than being able to make a difference.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and founder of Dale Dauten’s latest book is “(Great) Employees Only: How Gifted Bosses Hire and De-Hire Their Way to Success” (John Wiley & Sons). Please visit them at, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2009 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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