Being an intern can be crazy, stressful and unpredictable. (At my internship last summer, I lived outside of the country, worked for free, logged 15-hour days and had a boss who texted me all day, every day.) Many people I tell about that experience can't imagine putting so much effort into something with no paycheck. At this point, you may even be asking yourself “is an internship really even worth it?”
In this intern’s opinion, the answer is Y-E-S. And here’s the biggest reason why: having an internship is like test driving your potential career. (Better to switch your major now than be stuck in a job you hate after graduation!) A quality internship will give you that insider-only knowledge of a career path that you just can’t get back in the classroom.
That said, don’t be SO desperate to get that coveted internship experience on your resume that you fall victim to “intern abuse.” Sure, you may have to do some “bitch work” now and then at any job, but if you’re there for an unpaid learning experience you should actually be learning! If the hours become too long or the work becomes too much, you may be falling victim to employers looking to exploit you for free labor.
Just as the employer should abide by certain ethical standards, you should also be prepared to offer your best to the company where you’re interning. This means:
- Showing up on time or calling beforehand if you're running late
- Coming prepared with the materials you need
- Being engaged with your superiors and learning as much as you can from their experiences
- Admitting when projects are over your head and not taking on more than you can chew
- Giving 100% to tasks delegated to you
It’s vital that you make the most out of your interning experience because it truly is the key to getting a great (or at least tolerable) full-time job after college. And remember: even though you might not be getting paid, hopefully your internship will provide you with a great learning experience that you just can’t replicate in a classroom setting. And if not, at least you can chalk up your nightmare internship to a good learning experience of what you DON’T want in your first “real job.”