Things I Wish I Knew When I Was An Intern

Unpaid interns slavery

Oh, interning. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Actually no, it was pretty much always the worst of times. Looking back at my internship history, I consider myself a bit of a veteran. I was really good at being someone’s bitch gaining valuable knowledge in my chosen field, and in reality, all internship experiences can actually teach you something. Maybe you learned something helpful. Maybe you learned you definitely needed to change your major. Looking back, I’ve realized a few things I should’ve known back in the interning days.

1. There is no possible way your resume should be longer than a page.
When I applied to my first internship, I was 18. My resume was two pages long and I included my experience as a costumed character at various southern California theme parks. Embarrassing. Thankfully, they thought my previous jobs showed I had charisma or something, when in reality it just showed that I’m good at not dying in an extremely hot sweatsuit.

So what’s the lesson in all this: Leave your previous jobs as a costumed character/sandwich artist/valet off that resume.

2. You’re not going to get a full-time job after this so stop trying so hard.
Yeah, okay, some internships can magically turn into jobs. If you were one of those people whose internship transformed into a full-time job, then count your lucky stars. I was not so lucky. However, being the glass half full type of person that I am, I believed after almost every internship I scored, I would definitely get offered a job. I really should’ve been a little less optimistic (read: dedicated). Like, I went to my last internship one day during Spring Break. WHO DOES THAT?

Lesson learned: Do less.

3. You’re not getting paid. Stop volunteering so much of your precious time.
I am a firm believer that the right amount of sucking up will get you far in life. People just like it if you put in a little extra effort or tell them you like their outfit or hair or something. It’s a fact. The key is to just not take it too far to the point of being annoying. Not that I got to that point, but why did I decide to volunteer so much of my extra time? I wanted that imaginary job I thought was waiting for me at the completion of my internship, sure, but no one expects the intern to put in THAT much work.

Lesson learned: The right amount of sucking up will get you far in life, but too much sucking up is just a waste of time.

4. Don’t expect everyone to constantly tell you you’re doing a great job.
If you do something AMAZING, then you might get recognized for it. But the thing about internships is that you probably will never do anything amazing. Maybe if you work at a trendy startup and pull a ton of weight within the company you’ll do a couple cool things, but at most internships, you’re at the absolute bottom of the barrel. I was not prepared for this fact. Apparently no one praises you for doing mundane tasks that the rest of the company can do with their eyes closed.

Lesson learned: You are not God’s gift to your internship.

5. Do enough at your internship that you’ll score some awesome references.
Even though I was pretty dedicated to my internships, I slacked on the whole “force your boss to be one of your references” thing. I had to hustle past employers right before I graduated, and that was more stressful than it needed to be.

Lesson learned: Save procrastinating for finals week. Get ahead on gathering your references before it’s time to apply to real jobs.

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A recent grad and contributing writer for PGP, Kelsey spends her days in an office cubicle, and her nights either snookin' for love at the local watering hole or watching TV with her cat in her downtown apartment. She still has no idea what she's doing with her life.

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