Bad Internships

Alissa Best is a graduate student at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and is currently working toward a Masters in Public Administration. As a recent graduate from Auburn University (war eagle!), she spends a lot of her spare time cheering on the Auburn Tigers and watching college football. During her time at Auburn, she was a public relations major with an English literature minor and a proud sister of Omega Phi Alpha National Service Sorority. Her two ultimate goals are to become a published author and start her own nonprofit, so most days, you can find her writing or reading up on grad school assignments in the beautiful TN outdoors.

Imagine that you’re on your way to work with your hands full of coffees and your head full of the trembling fear that the barista got one of the orders wrong. You didn’t mind the coffee run though, because thankfully, it’s better than sitting at your desk in the copy room and trying to look busy for the rest of the day. You’re silently counting the days until the summer is over, so you can kiss this awful internship goodbye.

Many internships are the experience of a lifetime. They’re full of new knowledge, great bosses that instill a sense of confidence in your newly learned class skills, and a taste of life in the “real world.” Some internships, however, are more like the coffee-run, copy room desk example. You may be fetching lattes, making copies, or sitting at your desk, bored out of your mind the whole time, and that’s ok. Such is the life of a college student stuck in a bad internship. However, no matter how bad it seems at the time, that bad internship will turn out to be one of the greatest learning experiences of your college career. So grab the lattes, return to your desk in the copy room, and take note of these three simple reasons why the bad internship is really a magical learning experience after all.

1. Even when it’s hard, even when they ask you to make copies, and even when you’re less than thrilled about a new assignment, do the best possible job that you can do. Take a few deep breaths and understand that even though this isn’t your dream job, this could be a stepping-stone to getting there. There will be times in your future career when you may be asked to do something that you don’t really want to do. This is a good time to learn how to suck it up and be a team player.
2. If your internship has turned into an eye-opener that has you re-thinking all of your career goals, you’re in luck! Even though you were surprised and realized that you actually hate what you thought you wanted to do forever, this is still just as much of a learning experience! Learning what you don’t want to do in a future career is just as important as learning what you do want to. It’s kind of like dating. Maybe after your first couple of weeks at your internship, you realized that you’re totally not into it. The next time that you’re looking for a job or internship, you’ll know what kind of work and environment are more your type.
3. You’re still making connections, getting experience, and learning what it’s like to work in the field that you may or may not want to work in. Even if you only fetch lattes and you don’t even get to touch the magazine layout during your fancy editorial internship, you still get to observe the magic that’s happening. You can now go into your future job interview with the knowledge of how an office dynamic at a magazine works. And you’ll probably nail it! Because even though you didn’t actually design a magazine during your internship, just being there and observing the process is a step in the right direction.

When it comes down to internships, the worst thing that you could do is to quit, give up on caring halfway through, or never even try one out. Even if it turns out not to be the internship of your dreams, you’ll still come out of it having learned something. During my junior and senior years of college, I did 4 different internships, and all four of them have paid off in so many different ways post-graduation! Even the one internship that I really didn’t enjoy has taught me a lot about myself and what I want to do with my life. So try something new, and don’t fret if your internship isn’t all that you thought it would be. Later down the road, you’ll thank yourself for giving it all you’ve got and making the most of it anyways.

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