"I'm Just an Intern"

"I'm Just an Intern"

Your boss tells you that he needs 200 copies of that report in the next hour. Your coworker asks you to fill up the coffee pot and bring her a cup with a little sugar. The file cabinets that the office has ignored for years needs to be organized, and your boss still wants those damn copies. You have to admit it, you're an intern. People often associate interns with coffee mules, copy gurus, or the bottom of the ladder, which is correct in some cases. However, even if you are struggling through that one annoying phone call from the customer who insists you put her through to the President, there are many things to take advantage of while being an intern in Washington, D.C.

 

Play the "Intern" Card to Your Advantage

I want to first start out by saying that I have genuinely enjoyed my internship. There have been slow days that make me want to grind my forehead against a cheese grater, but those are somewhat rare. I have spoken with other students, and we've all thought at one point, that our internships sometimes have us doing menial work that nobody else wants to do. Every student from across the country runs into this problem while being an intern, but you can easily turn these into advantages.

 

The great thing about being an intern is no matter how badly you screw up, you can always apologize and say, "I'm just an intern." There have been many occasions where people would call and would become impatient with me. They would want to complain or let off some steam until I told them I was an intern. It would instantly cause them to become understanding and more polite. Most of the time, tense situations or a momentary lack of good judgment can be rectified by simply stating that you're an intern. However, this doesn't mean you have a license to do nothing or to intentionally mess up, but it does help to know that people will be understanding with you if something does go wrong.

 

Many people aren't just nice to interns, they will actively try and help them. I have found that most people in this city have been an intern at some point in their lives. This means they're extremely empathetic to your situation and will be happy to help you. Even the people at the top of the food chain will be willing to give you their spare time and a few pointers. This welcoming atmosphere is a great tool to help you navigate your internship, and give you new ideas for getting past the copy machine.

 

This welcoming atmosphere extends to your fellow interns as well. Most of the other interns I've met have turned out to be good people. Many of them will invite you to events at their workplaces, they'll help you with your projects, and you'll get tips from their internships to help you in yours. It's also great knowing that there are many other students at the Washington Center who will go through similar struggles. A great example of the interns looking out for each other happened last week. My roommate took the leftover sandwiches from an event at his internship and brought them to the apartment. He shared his bounty with us so we didn't have to cook that night. That was a great instance where everyone is happy.

 

This next advantage may only be limited to my job. This benefit comes from the gifts that I get from the park. For example, instead of wearing a suit every day, the park gave me a hat, jacket, books, canteen, pull-string bag, and a polo shirt. I shamelessly take all that they can give me. It's also nice when the supervisor buys pizza for everyone at lunch, or they sometimes give us free rides to the metro so we can skip the bus. Little moments like these assure me that us lowly interns are still appreciated for our work.



A quick picture of me sporting my fashionable polo...and looking into the sun!

 

It may sound cliche but the novelty of being an intern is also an advantage. These positions have new and exciting experiences that are gained even if you get stuck making copies for the day. Your interactions with your boss, the workplace environment, and even your daily schedule are different than the typical college semester. This is where you can get value from any internship. The knowledge gained from being in the professional environment has given me an advantage, and the job market (while still terrifying) doesn't seem as intimidating.

 

Limiting Aspects of Being an Intern

 

While all these advantages are great, there are still moments of frustration that can happen from being an intern. The biggest disadvantage is the lack of a paycheck for working a nearly full work week. The program is expensive, and living in a major city is not cheap. This can cause some despair, and you have to find clever ways to save money. Hopefully, the experience gained here will ease the transition into the job market, but I'll have to wait and see.

 

It can also be a jarring experience when you leap into the professional world. There was very little warning of what to expect when I received my internship. I had a general sense of what was required of me, but most of the details were hazy. It took a while to finally get settled in and comfortable in my new role as an intern.

 

Overall, being an intern has been a great experience. While there are some disadvantages, there are also tremendous advantages that will definitely help down the road. Part of the experience is learning to roll with the punches, and being flexible with your work. I would recommend that every college student attempt at least one internship.

Experience a Day in the Life of an Intern at The Washington Center

Learn More