Without resorting to drastic exaggeration, the invention of the internship is on par with the discovery of fire and construction of the wheel. OK, that may be a bit drastic. But, while maybe not as universally celebrated, it stands as a similar agent of empowerment.
An internship is a tool that, once obtained and mastered, acts as a flexible key for many of life’s proverbial doors. Think of it like a profession with training wheels and kneepads, given to you with the assurance the mountainous learning curve is no longer so steep. What you gather as you ride is up to you; though, in my experience an internship will give you at least the following:
1. The skills of a craft
First and foremost, as an intern you’ll learn how to do the job you are assigned. If you plan to pursue a career similar to your internship, you’ve struck gold! Here is an armada of kind, willing people who have done the job much longer than you, under whom you are now employed. Unless you insist on not going to work, you will certainly learn something about what they do. You’ll learn faster if you’re not afraid to ask questions and seek guidance. They may look intimidating, but believe it or not your mentors are there to help you. Utilize their knowledge to increase your own. Even if your internship is not exactly what you had in mind, the experience is still valuable. Any experience is valuable in this competitive world. And who knows? Maybe you’ll fall in love with something you never thought you would.
This sounds simple enough, but you are not merely internalizing a set of rules or routine; you are a foreigner in a brand new world. There is so much more to a job than its manual. You know how to operate the copier, but how much ink can you use before you’re a nuisance? You know how to write an email, but which coworkers want you casual, and which deferential? You know what a meeting is, but what happens there and what are you supposed to say? Only half of a workplace is the actual place. The other half, perhaps the more important half, is how its human gears mesh together.
2. Increased (and occasionally decreased) confidence
There’s no question that an internship will teach you something about, well, something. It will also, however, require that you learn; and in order to learn you must fail. Often. This cyclic process of “learn, fail, learn more” will be more challenging than the actual information you glean on the job. Because if you are anything like me – a sensitive perfectionist whose failings are few and far between – the truth of the matter is painful: you are new, you are human, and when surrounded by the titans of your workplace, there will be times when you feel as if you do not belong there.
… Here’s the surprise ending: you do. You do belong there, because how can it be that you, dear intern, are anything less than amazing when you are creating something extraordinary? When you fall, you are standing up again with your own strength, and that feels incredible. People trust you with meaningful tasks that will make a difference in the world, however small. With nothing but the lessons of your teachers, and the instructions of your work supervisors, you can actually make something. These moments of alchemy will be of your proudest and most memorable. It is here you will learn the reward of being an adult. So remember, your days as an intern will be equally yoked, as are all things.
3. An idea of who you are or what you want to become
Now, if you’re anything like me, you’ve spent the last 20 years with your nose in a book and a pen in your hand. You’ve walked into countless classrooms and sat in a desk in the front. Your grades have been steady, your degree is almost complete, and you’re staring down the double barrel of life with the vaguely panicked notion it will fire at any time.
But fear not, brave graduate. Your internship will guide you. Not only will it teach you a skill-set and grow you as a person, but it also provides you with a dependant compass. When you are lost in a sea of possible job applications, here is a buoy to which you may cling. It will remind you of what you love, and more than that, ignite your passion to work for it. Even if your internship is not what you thought it would be, it can help you narrow that job pool in increments, however slight. It will glow on your résumé as proof of what you accomplished, alerting potential employers that you are just as valuable as you know you are.
4. What You Give Them
You may think it is that alone, but the way of the internship is not one-sided. Companies and businesses benefit from you just as much as you do from them. Both fortunately and unfortunately, you will be paid little or not at all, which saves the company a bucket-load of money. There you are, a young mind ripe for the picking, practically working for free. More than that, you’re fresh and untamed, straight out of the factory. You have yet to develop any bad workplace habits and will likely be so thankful for the experience, you’ll be extremely pleasant to employ. It’s a win-win for everyone, any way you look at it.
So grab the reins, my friend. Saddle up. Get excited. What you learn on your journey is up to you, but always remember to enjoy the ride.
Interested in an Internship at The Brandon Agency. Contact us today.