How to appear busy as an intern when you have nothing to do

Make full use of toilet breaks


So you’ve managed to get the summer internship with that big company you wanted, congratulations! Your parents are proud, your friends are jealous and you’re happily optimistic. For the weeks and months you spend at this organisation you will no doubt gain needed experience, crucial contacts, but – almost certainly – waste a lot of time.

Every intern will find, at some point, you simply have nothing to do. It is not necessarily your fault. You’ve managed to get all your work done, and nothing new has come along.

This is problematic, as you can’t afford to look lazy and useless in front of your judging colleagues, but you can’t go nagging and harassing people for jobs because you will appear to be pointless and unneeded. You should now undertake a special art form of appearing busy to get through your dry patch of work.

The key is to look active and productive, whilst actually being quite the opposite. This is how.

Learning everyone’s names

On the first day you will be introduced to everyone at once. On the second day you will forget everyone’s names at once. So use some time thinking up helpful and creative ways to remember the people around the office. For example, Bob is bald so, Bald Bob. Whacky Tie Will. Sports Direct Mug Sam. Kind Kathy. Bitchy Becky. Arsehole Alan. This observational way of keeping everyone’s names will avoid awkward moments when your memory lets you down.

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Apply for grad jobs and other internships

This first strategy is quite risky but well worth taking. Most of your work on these internships will be done on a computer – probably admin or number crunching etc – so colleagues won’t think twice about you filling in forms and sending emails. This looks great because you look like you are actively benefiting the company, when you’re actually planning how to escape their offices.

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Taking time to make tea and coffee

It’s always nice and friendly to offer your fellow office workers a hot beverage – in some internships it is mandatory. So abuse this fundamental attribute of being an intern to your time-wasting advantage. Take as many orders as possible. Go around the whole office, more complicated the orders the better. Now take your time wandering on over to the kitchen with your list of drinks and prepare for the next step. Boiling the kettle.

There are two strategies when it comes to using the kettle. Either fill it up to the very top so it takes forever to boil or preferably filling it and boiling a cup-full at a time. The later is the more effective time waster.

For the third and final step load up the mugs onto a flimsy tray. Slowly walking with the tray of drinks to the office, awkwardly opening doors along the way, absolutely perfect time-wasting.

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Go for a walk around the building 

Learn where you are working and the locations of all the different departments. Even better – a pro tip here – carry around something with you like a piece of paper, a stapler or even a paper-clip. This will be sure to make you look busy and not just aimlessly bumbling about. A key intern trick.

The lunchbreak

This is your hour, but it can be so much longer than that. In most offices people will go out the building or to the canteen between 11:30am and 1:30pm. The critical point to leave is when about half the office has left. So on your late return it would not have been noticed by the majority of colleagues and supervisor. Thus being able to waste extra time without gaining a reputation of being a slacker. Who doesn’t like a long lunch to get through a slow day?

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Offer to go out to the shops

Are we low on anything? Milk? Tea? Coffee? Biscuits? Free-range Spanish goat cheese? After taking a mental note of items head out of the office. There may be a local around the corner but you are doing this to waste time.

You should make sure to go on a trek of epic proportions to eat through that time. The best thing you can hope for is that when you get there the shop only stocks Manchego. Time to find another shop. If you haven’t made a trip to every convenience store within a mile of your summer workplace, you can’t truly call yourself an intern.

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Make full use of toilet breaks

Now this final skill is a true art of balancing frequency and length that every intern needs to perfect. Place them neatly throughout the day and well-structured intervals. Nonchalantly head out to the toilets knowing you are going to be there for a while.

Find an unoccupied cubicle and begin your break. Make sure to take your phone for checking the News, Twitter, Tinder, Facebook etc. Get a full briefing of the all the social media before you head back to the office. Take your time. Ponder life. Have a micro nap. Think about what you are going to do when you get back to your desk.

With these strategies you should sail through yours summer placement. You will appear to be a valuable asset to the company even when you are essentially wasting their time. It will help pass the time whilst waiting for Bitchy Becky or Arsehole Alan to give you another menial job.

Don’t overuse these tactics, though. Your boss or supervisor could notice and they will be writing your reference at the end of the day. You want to be remembered as the intern who was constantly working – despite being given nothing to do – rather than the intern who was going to the toilet all day.