The only way to stop being an intern, is to become one.
In 2016, today’s youth is expected to have their entire lives planned out by 21. Society has placed such a weight on “millennials” to do “what our parents did” and that’s where we need to stop and realize anyone with that mentality is unfortunately stuck in a different era. Now, I am not saying not to listen to your parents, they have seen so much and have countless words of wisdom to share, however our world is changing before our eyes, and it’s our job to listen to our hearts and chase what we aspire after, what makes us truly happy. I wanted to share my experiences as an intern, and how I successfully stopped interning, in hopes that you will realize everything you dream of accomplishing, is in your grasp, but it won’t come without it’s price, hard work.
When I was 17, I landed my first internship at a local radio station. It was nothing short of hell. The funny thing was, I was okay with being an intern. Was I making money? Barely. Was I getting the most hands on experience than anyone else at my age? Absolutely. Being an intern is labeled as “unfortunate” nowadays, when in fact it’s the exact opposite. As an intern you learn how the real world works, how a business works, how people who have worked 20 years in their field have succeeded and achieved their dreams. It’s not somewhere you get thrown a set of keys to a BMW and given a pair of 6 inch Christian Louboutin (I wish!). It’s the place where you get coffee, make copies, perhaps even pick-up dry cleaning and get stomped over, but being able to handle the heat, makes you a force to be reckoned with.
I can’t tell you how many times I was spoken down to, how many times I was completely looked past in a room of executives, designers, editors and artists, because in fact, I was no one. I was a newbie in a building full of seasoned professionals, and I don’t regret my experiences whatsoever. The experience shaped me and molded my work ethic in every way, which I am forever grateful for. That first internship, lead to four more internships in Boston, New York and Los Angeles during college, where I truly learned the meaning of hard work. We live in a time where becoming a celebrity can happen overnight, where making a video online can lead to you having a network tv show, clothing line, or company; Which yes, they are amazing accolades and I applaud anyone who has done so before the age of 30, but is it long-lasting? Will it compete with the rest of the world? Most likely not. There is a huge difference between knowing your worth as a person, and taking things that were handed to you, for granted.
The personal experience you can get from an internship, from working until you are worn thin, is invaluable; Those times where you fall down, get up, and continue, are the moments that create someone major. Maybe it’s not for everyone, but anyone who complains about “not making enough money” as an intern, is in my eyes, whining. I managed to be completely on my own at 17, worked my way through college with two part-time jobs and an internship, and continued my journey to Los Angeles. It can be done, and I am definitely not the first person who has done it.
The hope is that you stop being just an intern. Become irreplaceable. Arrive thirty minutes early, and stay thirty minutes late, (I learned this from one of my first employers, who became a friend and mentor). Ask for more work, obviously not more than you can handle. You will realize that the human mind is able to handle more than what our societal standards says we can. I met so many incredible people and learned their stories while interning, people with horrible pasts who had to overcome a lot of obstacles, people who came from truly nothing, and pushed themselves to their limit to achieve their dreams. Don’t be scared to work, this country was built on that principle and it’s what employers will look for in a future employee.
With all of this advice and talk about hard work, comes the mention of being over-worked. In 2015, I was involved in a lawsuit against a very prominent publishing company. Unbeknownst to me, the group of interns I was hired with, decided to sue the company, claiming they were “not being payed enough for their work” – after finding out about the lawsuit, I refused to take part in it and mentioned how ridiculous the claims were. As an intern you are not held to the same standards as an employee, you become an intern to hopefully one day gather the experience so you aren’t in the same place in five years. I knew my time at the company was worth more than a thousand dollars in settlement money, and the experience alone was worth its weight in gold, so I turned my back on the group of kids who thought they deserved the settlement. In the end, many of my co-workers were blacklisted from the industry, I’m glad I stood my ground and was taught not bite the hand that feeds you, unless that hand really deserves it. Never allow yourself or your talents to be abused, we all have a breaking point, so speak up if you feel like the work is too much to handle or you simply can’t deal with all the stress. We are all human at the end of the day, a boss isn’t able to read your mind, and change won’t happen unless you are honest about something bothering you.
If you are thinking of taking on an internship, find one that’s right for you, there is always something that can fit into your schedule, most schools even have a guidance program for interning, or if you have a dream company you want to work for, email them! The worse thing they can do is not respond. Remember to always lead with your true talent, if you paint, if you write, if you’re good at math, if you love music, always make that the first thing out of your mouth in an interview, if it makes sense of course. Interning is usually seasonal, and there are limited spots in any company; If you’re hoping for a spring internship, start searching in late fall, if you want to intern in the fall, start in the summer. It’s always better to be the early bird when it comes to the interning game.
I hope you guys enjoyed this post on interning! Let me know in the comments below if you have ever had an internship and what your experience was, or if you want to become an intern! And make sure to like and share this post so I know to keep them coming!