Almost anyone in the workforce would agree previous job experience is the key to finding employment after graduation. After a few years, college students begin to realize lifeguarding at the local pool doesn’t look as impressive as it used to on a resume. Instead, we spend months searching for any willing company who is hiring summer interns, paycheck or no paycheck.
Entering the workforce on even a temporary basis can be very exciting, yet misleading for the average college student. I asked some fellow interns I have met during my internship in New York and back in the Midwest about their experiences thus far. Most agreed before the internship started they could be found searching for the proper “power suit” or business casual attire appropriate for the working world. The beer stained fraternity and sorority T-shirts just don’t cut it in the office. The first day on the job, however, most of us end up looking ridiculous in our double-breasted suits, after we realize even the CEO isn’t dressed that nice.
The rest of the first couple of weeks is spent figuring out how different an actual internship is from what we previously thought. For the most part, no one really cares if you are there or not unless the receptionist is sick or there are copies to be made at the infamous copy machine. The copy machine becomes a very familiar activity by the end of the week. Staplers within the machine and automatic sorters are a couple of perks associated with an intern’s number one job. Lunch is another memorable part of the day. Either we are so busy fetching lunch for our boss we are not able to find any time to eat, or we want to look “motivated” so we skip our lunch hour and occasionally sneak a cracker in-between copies.
Interns learn very quickly how to appear busy even when they are not. Solitaire, online shopping and crossword puzzles are all great tools for looking busy throughout the day. Of course interns are noted for being persistent when it comes to asking if anything needs to be done, but not everyone appreciates being bugged 10 times a day. If worse comes to worse, interns also have the task of finding out how to turn designated errand runner, daily coffee maker and regular copier sound like a learning experience for the post internship essay.
After a few weeks it is easier if you are able to spend the majority of the day with a coworker who is willing to spend time finding something for you to do or explain how a procedure works. Not everyone is able to find the time to explain and delegate responsibility, and it is usually faster for most people to just do everything themselves. Occasionally there are coworkers who understand what it is like to be an intern and are willing to make the job more exciting. These are people interns do not want to forget when it comes to job advice and recommendations.
Occasionally interns are given the opportunity to participate in a meeting or brainstorming session, which are more frequent at the advertising agency where I am currently an intern. During these meetings, interns can be found writing when everyone else is taking notes, nodding excitedly when the boss makes eye contact with you, and occasionally making what we hope is an intelligent, witty comment when necessary.
Not all summer internships are the same and are usually as beneficial as you make of them. But, I have a feeling life as an intern is something most college students will not forget. Forty hours a week without a paycheck, plus working another job to pay the bills just to add something to a resume is an unforgettable experience.
Most interns will agree however, the experience ends up to be worthwhile in the long run. A couple of endless eight-hour days might result in a networking opportunity or recommendation which make the job search much easier. After talking to current and past interns, I have also learned employers are more likely to hire an enthusiastic intern who always looked “busy,” rather than the average job seeker off the street. In that case, we must enjoy our responsibility-free jobs while we can and make the most of our days at the copy machine.