Asking for More Work and Creating Your Own Internship Opportunities

Dana Guterman
Published: July 30, 2020


It’s a common internship worry: You spend hours on applications and interviews, get into a competitive internship program, and then … you spend 10 weeks doing coffee runs and copying documents.

Many aspiring interns worry about being underutilized, particularly for remote internships. You want to spend your time building your skill set and gaining real-world experience, not staring at a blank screen! Luckily, there’s no need to sit at home and twiddle your thumbs. If you feel like you need additional work or more challenging projects, there’s plenty you can do about it.


Sweat the small stuff

They say there are no small parts in a production, and the same is true in the workplace. Before you ask for greater responsibility or new projects, you need to be hitting every deadline and mastering every task thrown your way. By showing that you can handle simple tasks, you’ll show that you’re ready for more complex work. That may mean staying late to finish stuffing envelopes or spending an entire day on data entry. By giving every single assigned project your all, you’ll be able to confidently ask for more advanced work.


Start at the top

Before you get frustrated, start at the very beginning by asking your supervisor for more work. But remember: you don’t want to come across as unsatisfied or ungrateful. You simply want to politely take the initiative. Ask your supervisor to a one-on-one video chat, and then present your case.

Start by expressing how much you’re enjoying this experience, give a brief summary of what you’ve done so far (and how well you’ve done it), and then ask what else you can do to help out and sharpen your skills.


Write it down

If you’ve asked for more work to no avail, it’s time to get a bit more formal. When companies pitch a solution to a potential client, they write up a proposal—and so can you. In your proposal, detail what you want to do and why you want to do it (i.e., your value proposition). Keeping your audience in mind, define the problem, how you’ll solve it (listed as steps), the deliverables and timeline, and the predicted impact/value-add. You need to persuade your supervisor that this work will not only benefit you—it will benefit the company. Wrap things up with how your supervisor can evaluate project success and your performance. Include evidence and hard data whenever possible.

And, if nothing else, you can now add writing proposals to your resume and a sample proposal to your portfolio.


Ask around

Maybe your supervisor is too busy to give you new projects. If that’s the case, it’s time to broaden your search. As an intern, you get to attend lots of meetings and meet people from across the company. Take advantage of your connections by asking what other people in the organization are doing and if you can help. Again, there’s no project too small: if someone wants help running a mail merge or copy editing a newsletter, hop to it! You never know where it might lead. Be helpful, not overly pushy, and people might even start coming to you.

Oh, and one more thing: your assigned work has to come first, so be ready to work late if needed.


Take things into your own hands

If you’ve still had no success, don’t despair. It’s time to take control of your own learning. If you find yourself sitting around during working hours, explore everything your company has to offer. Read e-learning materials, review proposals and brand guidelines, or SOPs (standard operating procedures). If you run out of company materials, take a relevant online course. Watch educational YouTube videos. Your company probably subscribes to some industry publications; read them. The options are endless.