Chances are in this day and age, you’ll probably undertake an internship at some stage, whether it’s part of your degree or you need that real-life, free labour experience
because good fucking luck without it to get a foot in the door.
Here’s what the internship dream looks like: You walk…rather glide… into the office. Other established workers will smile and greet you like they actually care about you. You’ll pick up the work easily, and get along with absolutely EVERYONE. They all adore you! You’ll do lots of fun and interesting tasks, and you’ll learn imperative skills to get you into that workforce. You won’t even remember you’re working for free, that’s how much fun you’re having. And BOOM at the end of three months, you’re happily signing a contract to actually get paid!
Sorry to burst your bubble, but the reality probably looks more like this: You stumble over yourself as you walk into the office because you’re so nervous. People barely glance in your direction, because you’re just another new intern. You become really good friends with the photocopier and scanner. You graciously get on your knees (oi, mind out of the gutter pervs), in your high heels to stick felt on the bottom of the chairs because god forbid they scrape during a meeting. But…character building, whatever.
Somedays you stare at your computer bored out of your mind because the actual real workers are too busy to give you a task. You’re commonly referred to as ‘the intern’ in phrases that sound kind of like this: “Oh ignore them, they’re just our interns,” “Excuse me intern, can you go fetch me RICE milk, I don’t drink lite,” “We’ll just get the interns to set everything up.” “INTEEEEERN!”
There’ll be days you love it. Days you resent it. Days you go home and feel inspired to keep pushing on. Days you go home and cry, because you’re a person god damn it, with real actual feelings!
There’ll be days you’re victorious and days where you feel cheated and exploited. Days where you do a piece of work so incredible, that your editor comes running into your office (read: desk facing nothing) and DEMANDS that you work for them. You graciously tell them you’re just tossing up between two other lucrative offers but they are definitely in high consideration and …
Oh wait, sorry, got carried away.
There’s no denying intern life is one emotional roller-coaster of a time. Being quite an experienced intern myself, I’ve been through the process of numerous internships – some I’ve absolutely loved and others that were…questionable. Here’s some valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way:
1) Make sure your internship is mutually beneficial:
Plot twist: While I’m sure free labour is great, don’t be surprised if some staff find interns annoying, especially when they’re new and don’t know the ropes. Chances are you may be started on admin and office tasks – sure they’re shit, but someone has to do it; and honey, you’re the bottom of the food chain.
HOWEVER: If you’re still doing the same, old boring tasks after three months and you’re not being given new responsibilities or learning absolutely anything in the related field – up and leave. First and foremost, you’re there to learn and gain experience, not be someone’s little bitch.
2) Communication is the key:
Don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re struggling or don’t understand something. It’s better to be retaught a system or protocol then monumentally fucking it up later on. It’s intimidating being an intern, and most of the time, it’s easy to feel like the staff a) don’t give a fuck about you and b) don’t give a fuck about your questions. Probably because a lot of them don’t.
Generally there’ll be one or two members of staff that are more involved with training the interns, so don’t be afraid to ask them – it’s part of their job. Like, they actually get paid to do it.
Haha, yeah I know, actual money, people get paid to work?! WHAT?!
3) Give a lot, get a little:
The harder you work, the more you will benefit in the long run. I wrote many, many articles in my spare time (after intern hours) so I could finally get published on a website I previously used to intern for. It may be easy to get down on yourself for every article or piece of work that gets knocked back, but if at first you don’t succeed… pick up your metaphorical pen (please, don’t act like you hand-write) and try and try again until you produce something so brilliant, your mother will weep. Oooooor you finally get a slightly funny, mostly stupid article on ‘internet slang’ published. Either one. Yolo?
4) Put a smile on that dial, because personality comes into play A LOT:
For all you naturally shy and reserved people out there, I feel you. For all those with resting bitch-face, I know your pain. For those who end up spending 14 hour unpaid days by the time you commute to work and home again – I know it’s stupidly stressful and you don’t know whether to laugh or cry or start hacking at your hair ala Britney Spears in 2007 style. Put those scissors down.
I’m not saying don’t be yourself, I’m just saying from observation – friendly, outgoing, bubbly people are generally favoured. I’m a classic example of ‘I take too long to warm up to people and feel relaxed and I feel I’m too annoying and ANXIETY CENTRAL‘ and I blame this personality trait for perhaps missing out on potential job opportunities. You don’t want to be that person. Trust me.
5) Don’t get bitter, get better:
My favourite line to live by. Sometimes an internship won’t work out. Sometimes you have to know when to call it quits. Even if things end on a semi-sour note, use it as life experience and keep pushing on. Use any past experiences and skills required to help land you bigger and better opportunities.
6) Keep your contacts:
Sometimes you have to leave an internship because there’s no chance of regular employment. While it’s never an easy option, make sure you leave on a happy note (sometimes easier said than done) thanking everyone who’s helped you along the way. Remember, building good relationships can help you later on down the track.
Article by TAHLIA PRITCHARD, who recently just started her FINAL internship. No, I’m serious this time.