I had been warned as an ambitious and daydreaming middle schooler who swore that she would be an anchor for ESPN’s SportsCenter that if I wanted to reach my dream job, I would have to relocate to a small town in Idaho for 12 years after college covering stories on families’ pets for the local weekend news show before getting any sort of “big break.” Sort of like a season 1 of How I Met your Mother Robin Scherbatzky without the luxe Brooklyn apartment and 3000 miles away from any borough of New York.
Even as an overly-optimistic sixth grader clad in braces and Harry Potter-shaped glasses, I kept telling myself two things whenever this caution sign came to my head. 1: I will not end up in Idaho. 2: If I have to go to Idaho to live my dream, I will.
But my naïve optimism could only go such a long way. When I began to pick up production internship opportunities in college, so many of the job descriptions read, “Going on runs, assisting in daily office tasks,” and the like. At the time, all I cared about was the status of having an internship and where I worked. So with any chance I was given, I made sure to take it.
Going into an office and not knowing what you would do that day was an exciting feeling. To know that I wouldn’t be sitting at a blinding cubicle was pleasant and that I would get to run around a bit made me feel useful. No matter what my assigned task was, it was very largely appreciated and I strove to earn the respect of my seniors. However, I knew that I was capable of doing the same tasks as a production assistant. In fact, I was doing the same tasks as a PA, but I wasn’t getting paid.
When I hear about internships my friends are doing now, it seems to be that there are so many lopsided levels. From what I hear, if you’re interning at a small start-up, you’re extremely integrated in the efforts that your company is trying to accomplish. On the other hand, students who get internships at well-known companies are labeled as “The Lucky Ones,” and then what do I hear? They get bitched at all day and they have to tape labels on clothes for 12 hours straight.
How on Earth are we, as students who are paying several prices to intern for these companies, supposed to learn from getting yelled at all day? What is a student supposed to gain from going around asking employees “Is there anything I can do for you?” and the answer is “No,” when really, there’s a huge task list with chores scribbled on it that have yet to be crossed off? If your student intern is studying communications, chances are he or she has learned the ABC’s of press release writing. Let her use her academic skills in the workplace.
And if she messes up? Don’t scold or scare her. We learn from mistakes, but we don’t learn from harshness, yelling, or negativity in general. Teach us. As interns, we are here to learn about our potential careers. Employers: these are our lives and we don’t have time to waste. Take us under your wings with sincerity.