The alarm rings at 7 a.m. sharp, but I’m already awake, my mind eager in anticipation of the day ahead. I pop out of bed and dress in the outfit that I had meticulously picked out the night before. Feeling trendy and professional, I grab the internship handbook I was told to print out along with my laptop, and leave the house at exactly 8:15 a.m. The office of my summer internship is located on a cute street right by the beach amidst buzzing shops, restaurants and cafes. Although I know it will take me 25 minutes tops to get from my house to the office, I give myself an extra 20 minutes of leeway just in case.
With my heart pounding and my excitement building, I walked into the office at 8:55 a.m., exactly five minutes early. I was immediately greeted by a friendly, smiling young woman -my internship supervisor - who introduced me to the office and the people I would be working with for the rest of the summer. This nerve-filled day marked the beginning of a learning experience for me. Being about five weeks into the internship now, I believe I have already grown immensely in my knowledge of the career field I hope to enter - although being an unpaid intern has not quite lived up to be the fun, glamorous picture I had so unrealistically painted in my head.
I began work the Monday I moved home from school, jumping straight from a sleepless week of finals and moving out of my dorm to a 9-5 job. There are six summer interns total, yet for the first four weeks I was the only one as the others had yet to start. Being the new girl and only intern was definitely a little challenging and intimidating at first. While all of the other employees were nothing short of friendly, they had all been working together for months, if not years, and they are all around the same age. Nobody likes to feel like the odd man out, and for a while that was definitely me.
Despite my high hopes going into the experience, being an intern has proven to be less than exciting. Although I know that a 9-5 job is to be expected for a normal workday, I am finding it hard to spend a full eight hour day sitting in the same spot, staring at a computer screen with little to no human interaction. While I’m not being ordered around to get everyone’s coffee, I am the one stuck doing the monotonous busywork that no one else wants to do. As unfortunate as it is, I find myself constantly checking the clock, counting down as the eight hours of my day as they slowly go by.
For a while I felt badly for myself, bummed that I was wasting away my summer and discouraged that maybe I was choosing the wrong career path, but as I step away from the situation, I see it a little differently. Being an intern, whether paid or unpaid, is a necessary step for breaking into the career field you hope to enter. To graduate with little or no work experience is basically setting yourself up for failure when it comes to finding a real job after college. Putting yourself out there to get work experience is the most impressive thing you can do as a college student, as it shows initiative and a drive to succeed.
As much as you can learn in the classroom, nothing beats real work experience. Having an internship gives you the opportunity to take the concepts you learn and use them in a real life work situation. It is also a good way to ensure that you want to pursue a career in the field you are studying. If you find yourself hating your summer internship, then it is better to discover that before you graduate and are stuck in the field indefinitely. The internship could also help you hone in on what interests you, what you’re good at and perhaps even help you to find your niche.
One of the most important benefits of work/internship experience is gaining confidence. Everyone is nervous walking into their first day on the job, but the more experience you gain, the more confident you’ll be walking into your next job. Having job experience will give you a major advantage in your next job interview as well, giving you real life experiences and challenges that you had to overcome to talk about in the interview.
Despite the fact that I may not be having the time of my life as a summer intern, I realize now that everybody has to pay their dues and that the importance of work experience is invaluable. Getting good grades isn’t enough anymore; for those who really want to impress future employers and demonstrate a go-get-em’ attitude, getting multiple internships and jobs on your resume is a must. An internship may feel like a drag, but the payoff of an unpaid internship is invaluable professional experience, higher self-confidence and a stronger chance of getting that dream job you want later in life.