Behold the world of miniature adulthood, where teenagers and 20-somethings work for little to no pay and the promise of invaluable experience: welcome to your first summer internship.
I was almost painfully terrified to start my last summer internship at my local newspaper. In my mind, it seemed like I had accidentally made it to the top of the food chain my freshman year, which is terrifying and gratifying at the same time.
Here's what I learned at my first internship.
1. "Internship" doesn't always mean getting coffee.
For me, it meant writing as if I were hired and paid by them. I was shocked to learn that I'd actually be gaining experience and not just working as a slave. But with responsibility comes a great fear that I was not ready for.
2. It doesn't have to be terrifying.
When they give you your first assignment, whether it be grabbing a coffee or writing a 600-word story about sidewalk expansion, you'll automatically feel overwhelmed. But being thrown into the real world is genuinely the best way to get started in your career.
Fear doesn't have a chance to hold you back, so don't give it too much power.
3. Everyone is at the bottom of the food chain of life.
Metaphorically speaking. Not one person at your job knows what the heck they're supposed to be doing, so when you screw something up, just know you're like everybody else.
4. Some people are willing to help you...
Like when you show up to the first event you're supposed to cover — like a memorial service at a VFW post — and you just walk up to a stranger and say you're new at this, and they actually help you find the people you need.
5. ...and others aren't.
Like when you're at your first city council meeting and you look really lost and everyone's wearing suits, and a polished reporter from the other local paper is there, treating you like the competition.
6. You'll actually learn a lot.
Not only about the things you were expecting. I learned that you should call your editors by their first names, that soap-making is an art that's hard to master and that small-town newspapers will cover literally anything.
7. Next year's internship will be better.
When it's finally over, you'll thank yourself for seeking out this opportunity. Kickstarting your career was actually kind of fun, and it gave you something to do over the summer other than Dungeons & Dragons.
And now that you have a year of experience, you can move on to bigger and better things, like maybe a magazine or a start-up or Dell. In the end, it was definitely worth your summer.