If your internship/job is not assigning you any work, it could mean a few things.
1. Management sucks
Some bosses just don’t care. When school sends interns they see it as cheap labour or corporate social responsibility. They will pay you minimum and not invest anything into you. They may see it as a burden. They see you as a shadow and don’t expect anything from you other than to not make trouble and not disturb the full timers. These bosses don’t realise that interns become future ambassadors for the firm and that treating interns poorly will backfire eventually. You probably won’t want to work here full time. Another thing could be that the bosses just don’t know there is a new intern, which then again says something about how they are managing their team.
2. People are too busy
People are too busy to cut out work that is simple enough for you to do without having to teach you. If they give you something difficult, then they have to spend time to teach you. If they give you something too simple (print papers, bind documents, scanning, filing) they might feel bad. It’s hard to find something with an appropriate difficulty level for you, especially if your office is doing something very technical and which requires experience e.g. engineering.
What you can do
1. Ask the managers/other people in the office for work (which is what you are already doing, so great!)
2. Spend the time learning stuff online e.g. python/excel/powerpoint and learn vba, power bi and the advanced user stuff. These softwares are used in almost every company and the skills will be transferable so you won’t be wasting time. Don’t be afraid to let others see that you are using the time to learn stuff, especially since they already said they had no work for you. It’s better to openly watch Udemy videos than to secretly pretend you are working when you have nothing on hand. At least if you get ‘caught’ then people can assign you something!
3. Ask the full timers if they have past projects which they have completed which you could look at. Reports, etc… Just so you get what the deliverables look like so that when someone has work for you If the office uses some specialised software/process, ask for where you can watch tutorial videos/learning material for it. Don’t be afraid to cold call people in the office especially if they are in your organisation chart.
4. Do not feel like it’s your fault. Sometimes the person in charge of you just doesn’t have the capacity to teach you and it can be demoralising when your fellow intern seems to be learning many new things. Do what you can by speaking up and keep a log of what you do every day, so at least at the end of the internship you have something to be proud of.
5. Try to join the full timers for lunch, its an opportunity to network, add them on linkedin but don’t gossip. You can talk about neutral things like hobbies, what they did over the weekend, casual stuff. It would also be a great chance for you to ask things like what skills are important, what is something they wish they learnt in university that is very useful in this role. People are always happy to give advice, it makes them feel good about themselves haha.
6. It’s definitely not an ideal situation and contrary to what others may say about how having no work makes a dream job, this is not a good situation to be in for a long time. It is bad for your learning, career advancement and for your own mental wellbeing. (Who wants to go to ‘work’ and do nothing useful yet not be allowed to go out and do your own thing?) If it’s your full time job, speak to your manager, else transfer departments, else change companies.
All the best and I’m sure you’ll do well. An experience like this is something you can use to answer this question at a future interview: “Describe a difficult situation you had at work.” But be discerning and don’t just rant about the bad company, focus on what you learnt and how you took initiative despite the challenges.