I can’t remember the exact moment that I first heard the word “internship,” but I do know that ever since, it has carried with it a sense of doom, gloom and dread. In high school, I knew that at a vague future date, I would need to somehow get an internship, but at the time, I was free to spend my summers on the beach working for minimum wage and getting a tan.
Freshman year at BC, things got a little more real. While many people still planned to return home for the summer and settle back into their high school jobs, a handful had obtained mysterious internships at organizations and firms all over the country. I was baffled. How did they find these elusive internships? How had they become qualified enough to get them?? Should I have been looking for one??? Did this mean I would never get a good job????
Sophomore year there was no avoiding the internship issue. I was determined to find one in Boston so that I didn’t have to spend my whole summer at home. Armed with my career center-approved resume, my half completed LinkedIn profile and my ill-fitting business attire, I set out to get hired. A few months later, I was still jobless and had developed a crippling fear of networking.
Despite getting rejected from all the internships I applied for in Boston, I did get accepted into a BC internship program in Dublin, Ireland. Intrigued by the unique combination of a work and abroad experience, I readily accepted.
Now I’m more than five weeks into my internship in Dublin and I still feel like the new kid on the block, just with a better resume. By no means have I figured out my place in the professional world, but I have gleaned a few kernels of wisdom during my brief experience that might (or might not) make the whole “internship” thing a little easier.
First, and somewhat obviously, do your work without complaint. The stereotypes are true: interns make coffee, run errands and work long hours without pay. This is slightly mitigated in Ireland because of the more relaxed culture around work, but still many of the tasks I am assigned are basic and somewhat undesirable.
However, there’s never an excuse to slack off or mope. The jobs I am assigned need to get done whether I do them or someone else does, and taking one for the team shows work ethic and garners respect. In my experience, hard work done with a smile is always appreciated; sulking is not.
Second of all, don’t give up. Through my internship, I’ve had really good days and really bad days. On the good ones, I meet interesting people, do relevant and enjoyable work, and maybe even get a free lunch. On the bad ones, I grit my teeth and make it to five. Just like every other endeavor in life, you’ve got to eat your vegetables if you want to have dessert, and dessert is always worth it.
Lastly, own it. While internships are definitely about learning from your superiors and getting experience, they are also about figuring out what you enjoy and excel at in a work setting. Take pride in your work, even if it feels unimportant. And challenge yourself! Ask your boss what more you can do, go beyond expectations and leave your workplace better than how you found it, even in the smallest of ways.