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How to Get Through a Terrible Internship

Wed, Feb 15, 2012

Personal Experience

Whether you’re a law student or a journalist, an actor or a writer for the stage, many occupations require that you act as an intern first before you can be taken seriously in your chosen profession (and, if you’re lucky, your internship includes a stipend!). For many people, being an intern is a positive experience, one that releases them into the workaday world with high expectations and a joie de vivre that cannot be equaled! Then there are other people whose experiences were not quite as fantastic. If you are enduring a terrible internship right now, or you’re afraid that you’ll end up in one in the future, here are a few strategies you can consider to get you through.

Don’t slack! This is a tempting option, especially if you don’t feel appreciated … or down right abused. But remember that an internship isn’t forever, and, in fact, your bosses and fellow co-workers will all undoubtedly have connections that they can use against you when you’ve completed your term. An inefficient intern is a sorry intern no matter the quality of the internship, so keep your chin up and your noise to the proverbial grindstone. When you’ve finished, even if you felt like you’ve been through all the circles of hell, don’t be surprised when you receive a glowing recommendation.

Check that ego. Did you attend one of the best online colleges of 2012? Did you or your professors consider you to be a super scholar? Perhaps therein lies your problem: you were a big fish in the little pond of your school or university, but now that you’re in the semi-real world, you feel unappreciated. Remember that being an intern is supposed to be a humbling experience – that’s exactly why you aren’t paid (very much) (or at all)! Many professions that need interns consider this paying your dues. Check your ego at the door and get to work!

On the other hand. High self esteem and a positive self image are necessary to make it in most professions. So you don’t feel appreciated – that doesn’t mean you are inherently incompetent or that you don’t know what you’re doing. Remember that you are still technically a student! You aren’t a professional yet, and most of the people in your office have been working there a lot longer than you. This is about paying your dues, remember, so keep a positive attitude about yourself. You’ve made it this far, after all!

Bad decisions. Maybe part of your problem is that, the more nervous you become, the more terrible become your decisions. This can be as simple as taking someone’s parking spot by accident. Don’t let a terrible experience shake you up too much! Stay strong emotionally and mentally – don’t let yourself make too many silly mistakes!

Schmoozing. If your experience is terrible, try to make friends at work or at events. Stronger socialization may be the key to improving your internship, so be sure to attend after work events and forge good relationships with your co-workers.

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