Part time jobs, moving around the country, traveling, not having a job for almost a year, and various internships since graduating college have marked my climb to finally land me in the stepping stone, paid position that I recently acquired in TV Production.
For someone who craves stability and knowing what’s next, the process of finding myself in the job search was not an easy one, but it has definitely enhanced my perspective of what it means to discover a field I enjoy, struggle after college to get there with a few twists and turns, and not give up in the process! Life is an adventure with unexpected experiences after all.
I achieved my current job a few months after interning at a local production company, where I work on 3 different sports shows for Penn State University. It is a BLESSING and stepping stone. On this journey of life, I am more than happy to be working in the creative field of quick turnover and slow waiting of media production- especially as I started at this particular company just a few months ago, as an intern, 2 years out of college.
I have big dreams in media production, but the reality is I’m a growing novice. Part of that growth comes from the change in status of Intern to Production Assistant- and there are some takeaways that the various internships I’ve had in and out of college that I miss, as well as wanting to laugh at!
1. Using the phrase: “I’m just an intern.”
Sure, some days it sucks being the lowest on the totem pole in a work environment, but you can get away with A LOT by using the phrase “I’m just an intern.”
When something goes wrong with a computer system, or your team forgets important equipment off site, you get to look at your supervisor and say, “Gee, I don’t really know about that, I’m just an intern.” If other people come to the office who need directions, or to find someone, you can smile politely and quickly say, “I don’t know where that room is or who they are, I’m just an intern.” When things go wrong in the office, a quick diversion for damage control is, “Sorry! I’m just an intern.”
2. Less Responsibility
As soon as you are on payroll, there is *that* much more responsibility to know where things are, show up on time, and complete work quickly. I’m not saying you can show up late everyday during an internship and get brownie points. It is important to take the internship seriously, maybe even more so than a job, if you want to be noticed as having integrity.
You never know what an internship might lead to! The company I am with now asked me to apply for a position with them a little over a month after being on time, available, and on top of it every day I showed up. But if anything were to happen at work that I didn’t understand or know how to handle, as an intern, I would look to the people above me for leadership.
You’re not expected to know it all and get it right the first time, as an intern. Less responsibility for happenings at the office means less weight on your own shoulders.
3. You Can’t Get Fired (at least it’s pretty hard to get fired, maybe if you do something realllly awful)
As an intern you can’t get fired. A lot of places offer internships to students for school credit, or to people with limited experience as an opportunity to get their foot in the door, in a particular field, for free. And if you are working for free, it would take a lot of no-shows and crappy work for a supervisor to let you go. At many places, the interns do the leg work and keep the office running smoothly. Interns oftentimes save companies money. So, even if you are late, need to schedule change, or have a bad week and mess everything up earning the label “Intern of the Month” you still (probably) won’t get fired.
We live in a generation where commitment is lax and even looked down upon, but when you are just entering the work force, it can be comforting to know you are not locked into a particular position, or with a certain company. During an internship, you have freedom to decide if you like the industry or not. And if you like the industry, but can’t stand your supervisor, you get to walk away with a successful internship experience 3-6 months later. This will amp up your resume, while giving you the freedom to walk away and not be locked in at the end of your scheduled internship.
5. Solidarity With Other Interns
There is solidarity in numbers, especially if you are treated as a lowly intern. I’ve been lucky to have supervisors who have taken me seriously as an intern and worker, but that doesn’t mean the work was always fun. Oftentimes intern work can seem tedious, boring, or like “busy work.” But supervisors give interns work so that they can focus on more important things.
Working at a computer that shuts down, in a dark corner, researching such and such for three days- while everyone else in the office is running around, talking, laughing, and drinking coffee- can really carry some negative weight. Except that on those days, I would look up and see other interns in the same position and realize I’m not alone. Then, I’d continue chugging away at whatever tedious project I didn’t understand was so important to my supervisor in the moment, and smile.
One of my favorite things about being an intern at one particular place I worked was finding community with other interns. We’d go out for happy hour at cheap bars after work, laughing at the day and dreaming about the future… It was awesome to connect with others who were striving to find a place, just like me, at a big office doing seemingly pointless or boring tasks. That community and solidarity was important.
6. A Unique Experience
Hopefully, as with anything in life, you will have fun stories and get to do creative things as an intern. Big or small, anything you can stick to for months without getting paid shows character. Especially when you know an internship is one step of learning and growing, to get to your bigger goals and dreams. Internships offered me hope and expectation for the future.
At each internship, I saw myself moving in different directions. Whether it was emailing connections in other countries in Spanish, helping design shoes, programming shows for TV stations, sitting at a computer for hours logging 100’s of video clips, running through the tunnel with the Penn State football team at a home game, coming up with ideas and emailing them to my supervisor in the middle of the night, running out of money, laughing about it all over cheap wine with other interns, and best of all my supervisor approaching me to apply for a job with them because they wanted me; I wouldn’t trade my internship ups and downs for anything.
I recommend everyone on the job hunt to intern somewhere, especially if you’re not 100% where to go next. It’s humbling, but you just never know what doors might open!