En route to our high flying careers in various fields, some of us may have had the wonderful experience of being an intern. Here are seven things I feel that many of us dutiful unpaid workers can relate to, or which the prospective intern can look to for guidance.
1)The perpetual beverage maker
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. The three words everyone thinks of when you say ‘intern,’ the question teetering on the lips all day of the most eager unpaid worker. The rising at the end of the phrase which conjures up a false willingness and excitement to carry out the task in hand. You’ve got it – ‘Tea or coffee?’ It’s definitely worth practicing the creation of the ultimate instant Nescafé before arriving on your first day. Learn your Chamomile from your Earl Grey. Walk up and down the stairs with a tray of full mugs a couple of times. Because, as first impressions go, a bad cup of tea is up there with breaking the photocopier and indirectly insulting your boss’ haircut.
Once the location of the teaspoons has been established and the difference between the shit coffee and the alright coffee has been mastered, you think you’re on the path to a stress free life. Alas, then comes the daily moral dilemma. Who am I supposed to make these well-practised drinks for? Is it just my boss? Is it my surrounding workers? Is it the entire open-plan office of 437 people? A line has to be drawn. You need time to get on with your other important intern duties. I’m still working this out by the way, and have a constant attack of anxiousness that I’ve offended someone on a regular basis. And don’t get me started on that person who asks for the apple spiced, decaf, extra hot, nectarine infused breakfast tea with just a splash of semi-skimmed.
2) Get your game face on
It is likely, while you might also be doing some super interesting and useful stuff, that some days will feature tasks which err considerably on the side of dull. No, my friends, nothing is dull to you. Nothing can burst your bubble of zealous enthusiasm. Open that post with a smile on your face and file those documents like there’s no tomorrow. File it like you’re being paid.
3) Office tensions are rife
Sit back and watch the politics unfold around you. You’re not involved enough to be caught up in it, but you can see the tensions bubbling beneath the surface like a volcano which will never erupt, due to the unfaltering etiquette of forced British politeness. Someone sits at a different desk, IT are called AGAIN to sort out Sue from finance who’s downloaded a virus, John from HR is maddened by Mike’s constant pacing up and down in sales. You sit and wonder why nobody addresses these clearly unbearable issues, but then remember you’re just the intern and what do you know. Then there’s that dodgy bloke who everyone knows is a bit racist.
4) You have no name now
So many are we, that our names become merely one more inconvenient thing to remember. We become used to being referred to as ‘The Intern’. We even begin to introduce ourselves as such down the pub. Our name is but a thing of past, a memory of a time when we were full of identity and hope. Still, it’s kind of exciting to have your own email signature.
5) The absolute panic when your phone rings and you realise you have no clue about anything that goes on here
You wonder in that moment of sheer terror why they have given you, a person who probably knows the least about this organisation, a phone. Master the phrase ‘could you hold on just a moment while I check that…’
6) When you’ve been invited to a meeting and you realise you have no clue about anything that goes on here
They invite you along for the experience, but what are you supposed to do? Take notes? Pretend to understand what they’re talking about? Offer some kind of input at risk of sounding like you’re pretending to understand what they’re talking about? It’s a minefield.
7) The perpetual intern hater
There’s always that one person who hates the intern, who will deliberately miss you out of a tea and coffee run (if for once they’ve beaten you to it), and who will be damned if they make eye contact with you throughout the day. You know it’s not personal; it’s just a status thing. New blood, new ideas, enthusiasm….they’re not welcome here. The intern hater can of course also be found in an external source, perhaps in a flurry of angry emails complaining about things the previous intern has done. While preparing your apologetic and sympathetic reply you remember how grateful you are for this wonderful unpaid experience.
8) When you’re bled absolutely dry from train fares
Again, as you gasp each time you open your bank account or once again have to ask to borrow from the bank of mum and dad/equivalent parental unit so you can pay for your £8 pint after work in Piccadilly, you remember how grateful you are for this wonderful unpaid experience.
9) The moment your whole life becomes worthwhile when the boss says you did something good
You’re actually given a bit of responsibility and you can genuinely barely contain your excitement. You realise you might actually quite like it here. So you do what interns do best, and put your heart and soul into it. But not before you’ve made Carol her medium strength, milky, extra hot, nectarine infused coffee.