While the initial thrill of any given internship may provide a great deal of encouragement when entering the work force in college, what many students do not expect is entering the honey moon phase with any job, whether it be on campus, an internship, or even long term employment. My advice to give unto all my collegiate classmates, which I have experienced at many different offices, is that good or bad, your internship or job is a learning experience…just one of the many on your path to life.
No matter bumpy or smooth sailing, sometimes when Monday morning rolls around, we would give anything to just have a few extra moments under the covers! Snoozing that alarm clock one too many times just to avoid the shock of the early morning shower, and the intensely boiling hot cup of coffee that soon follows is just part of a package deal when interning or working on the regular.
It’s the idea that after finally selecting that outfit, you get to chase down an AU shuttle, just to let it drive speeding past. As if it guns the accelerator on purpose when it sees you bounding the corner. That moment when you miss the only bus or metro you need to make in order to arrive to work on time, then realize this sets to tone for the rest of the day…that you begin to question is it really worth it?
I am here to tell you, and thereby reaffirm all your incessant applying to law firms, big name companies, federal bureaus, and the biggest news agency in the world, that yes, your pain, anger, frustration, your ups and downs, your phone calls home, your moments drenched in the poring rain waiting for an AU shuttle …are so worth it.
First off…. we all know the big “AU WAS VOTED NUMBER ONE IN INTERNSHIPS IN THE NATION!” But a fancy shmnacy rating on News and Report does not get me past the 3:00 lull in my afternoon or pay my cable bill with a non-paying internship. But what it does do is allow your hard work to actually mean something. Even if you interned or worked for a company that was not a name brand field or area, you can leave knowing that you are ending this year with some experience. That’s something many students around the country truly can’t say.
Secondly, as work begins to pile up in the office…that side of your brain where rationality begins to kick in starts yelling, “HEY! When is your HOMEWORK going to be done? You know, the work that actually matters…the work that you NEED to do in order to GRADUATE?” Yeah we tend to push our academic lives to the wayside when our business lives begin to pick up. I love to relate my life at AU/ my internships to that amazing line in the Devil Wears Prada, “Let me know when your personal life begins to fail. It means you need a promotion.” I have been a bit of a living definition to the quote and mantra that work, as in class work, comes first, before office work.
We get a bit carried away when the glamour of a real job is in the running and we begin to truly succeed at what we are doing. The drive of gaining a job after school starts to set in, as does the constant need to gain more respect and accolades while interning. But as grades start to slip and things like friendships, relationships and even your personal health start to be pushed off into the back of your mind, we need to really stop and prioritize. Perhaps the best example I can give from my own life was during my time as a White House intern sophomore year. Aside from the daunting and incredible experience being named as an intern, I was thrust into a very competitive and mature setting. The youngest person in any department, I had to prove myself constantly that I deserved to be there just as much as the 35-year-old Yale Law grad that spent his summers de-mining the terrain in Northern Africa (not really, but you should see some of the bios my class candidates had…talk about intimidating). But on top of that, I was living with 3 other girls, in a dorm, not giving proper attention to my health, sleeping was the last on my to do list and by the middle of the semester I was the last person you wanted to talk to. It’s important to do well at work, and to make sure you are enjoying the most of it, but it’s probably more important to make sure school comes first as does your health. A healthy mind and body makes for a healthy working experience.
My final tidbit of interning trades and tips to give is to speak up. A pretty obvious one, but something that I didn’t appreciate until my fifth and most recent internship (yes…fifth…disturbing right?). I really had not understood the power your voice can have on your success as an employee. I am a broadcast journalism major and communicating is pretty much a given in any course or interaction among us journo kids. But what many of us tend to forget is that simply working well and completing a task until it is finished really does not impress anyone, nor does it present an area for you to move up and complete more tasks.
I specialize in editing video and in all my internships and jobs I am basically assigned roles and tasks of breaking down video that is shot by someone like a reporter and creating a new piece of video for the web or for air. Previously at internships I have assumed that someone of higher authority assigns me the task, I work, complete it and move onward to the next one. But until my most recent placement, I have been given much more room to work in a creative environment but also work at my own pace while paying attention to the details. With freedom to work and freedom to create my own pieces there is also freedom of acquiring my own work and asking for more. I have honestly never been exposed to an office environment like this, so I can understand the initial trepidation when approaching my co-workers to ask for more assignments.
I like to think that I am a bit of a veteran of the work place with the variety of internships I have acquired over the years. From DC to NYC to London my experiences have been incredible, but when I have found myself frustrated or thinking, “why did I ever apply for this?”…I realize in the end what I am working for. I know many of you have had just an awful day in the office or would trade anything in the world to have a “normal” college experience like kids across the country. Waiting for a tailgate in the freezing cold for the school’s football team or taking a coach bus to some wonderful event the school arranged sounds like a dream. Trust me, I’ve found myself daydreaming about the life I could have had. I could’ve just sat around, done nothing until senior year rolled around, when my heart would begin to drop with the idea of applying for my first internship.
But instead I attended a school that encourages its students to try harder, to wake up with a feeling of anticipation for the future and to be determined for every challenge that life presents us. We intern because we can and we intern because one day we will look back on all of this and say, it was all worth it.
Posted in Senior Sendoff