Help! How long should I remain an intern?

Dear Aunty,

I work for one of the most sought after companies in Zambia. I started working in January this year (2014) as a paid student together with five others and the contract was valid for four months but after four months elapsed we where still told to report for work before signing another contract. As we were working two of my colleagues found work else where and left. We then signed for another three months contract after almost two months of working into the same contract.

I was then transferred to a different division where I signed another three months at the end of the previous contract while my colleagues remained. Two months into that contract at the new division I was told all my remaining colleagues had been laid off and I was the only one remaining. At the end of my contract I have again been extended a one month contract. 

What I don’t understand is why keep on extending short contracts for almost a year? Could there really be any future here or is it just a time-waster for me and should I look elsewhere? 

Am confused and concerned because am uncertain of my future.

Aunty says,

I can understand why you are frustrated with the uncertainty surrounding your employment status. This uncertainty is a result of not knowing whether you have a future at this organisation.

Firstly, it is not uncommon for employers to extend the contract of an intern for short periods. This may be done for a number of reasonable business reasons such as clearing a back log of work or undertaking a short-term project. Your employers decision to keep employing you could actually be regarded as a positive (especially as your other colleagues have been laid off). It shows that your employer values the work that you have been doing.

However, I do understand that you are not comfortable with this level of uncertainty. So what options are open to you?

In my mind you have at least 3 options:

  1. Continue to work for the organisation without saying anything and hope the situation resolves itself
  2. Obtain clarification from your employer regarding your future at the organisation
  3. Continue to work for the organisation whilst looking for a permanent job elsewhere

When deciding what decision to make it is worth considering other factors, such as:

  • The type of work that you are doing and the experience that you are gaining
  • The enjoyment you get from working at this organisation
  • Whether you would be able to get back into this desirable organisation should you choose to leave
  • The availability, pay and employment terms of other jobs in your chosen profession and location

Whatever you choose to do – ensure that you take as many positives as you can out of your situation. For example, you are working for one of the most sought after organisations in Zambia and have been kept on whilst over colleagues have been laid off – this must say something positive about you and the work that you are doing.

I hope that this information will of use to you.


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