Co-Op Confessions: That Awkward Moment…

By Sabrina Safran 

Speaking from experience, whenever individuals enter a new internship or job, they want nothing but to make a wonderful impression on their bosses and co-workers. It’s no secret that the best way to accomplish that is to do their work efficiently, professionally, and with a good attitude. However, what happens when the work suddenly runs low and you’re left sitting at your desk with nothing to do? If you’re like me, than it’s definitely awkward.

Obviously, those of us who are making time for these internships and co-ops in our college careers are people who want jobs and want to be successful. However, when we have down time in the workplace, we may feel uncomfortable because we want to leave good impressions. Remember that downtime happens all the time in the workplace, though we may not be used to having to keep ourselves occupied. Don’t get me wrong – if you work in a fast paced market, especially in the television industry in New York City like me, than a break is definitely appreciated from time to time. But how do you handle yourself when you don’t want your boss to think you’re slacking?

What’s funny is that a conversation I had with my friend, who currently interns for Vh1, inspired me to write on this topic. She said that for the first time during her entire internship, not only her, but even her bosses didn’t have much work to do. She said that she ultimately had a very easy day, but it almost felt wrong to have such a laid back experience, if only for one day.  I agree with her sentiment. Given that I’m also a full-time student, getting a little downtime at work every now and again not only makes me feel awkward, but frustrated in the sense that I have so many other things I could be doing for classes and extracurricular activities. It’s painful to just sit and do nothing in the workplace with a never-ending to-do list replaying in my mind.

I do want to get one thing straight – having downtime is not a frequent occurrence, so don’t think us motivated college kids just go to these internships and co-ops and do absolutely nothing. If anything, they’re no joke since we’re always so busy. But that’s also another reason why downtime can make us feel so uncomfortable, because it’s not a normal occurrence. So what can you do if you can relate to this particular intern/co-op struggle? Don’t worry. Downtime is normal for everyone, whether you’re an executive or a temporary employee. If anything, try to think of little “housekeeping” tasks you can do to really set yourself apart with simple things like cleaning your workspace or creating a cheat sheet of phone numbers for you and your bosses to refer to. One thing that you can do that will never fail is to ask your boss if they have any more work for you to do. If they say no, keep in mind it may only be for the time being, so don’t get to comfortable lounging around. If anything, take it with a grain of salt and enjoy the temporary relaxation before your next challenge.

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