Internships have become vital forms of work experience for people trying to get their foot in the door of competitive industries.
I recently finished a three-month internship with a successful media publication. When asked for program feedback on my last day, I told them there were times when there was nothing for me to do because each day, they had multiple interns available for tasks.
I thought I'd be the only intern there, but I definitely wasn't. During my internship, I constantly saw this as a negative. When you go to an office each day expecting to be given a day's work and you're left twiddling your thumbs, it's easy to feel frustrated.
As I look back now, I realize working alongside other interns actually had some benefits.
Here are three of them:
1. You learn to kill comparison.
During my internship, some of the interns got their stories published. I was not one of them.
At first, I was extremely jealous of my peers. I desperately wanted to get published by that popular publication, but sadly, my creative juices simply refused to flow.
The jealousy I felt soon turned into the ugly comparison monster: "Why can't I get published, too? Am I not good enough for this line of work? Does my boss regret giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?"
Thankfully, I quickly realized that jealousy, and the act of comparing, were to assist me in no way.
Rather than turning into a Regina George type of gal, I learned how to be genuinely happy for my fellow interns: They had created impressive original work, and that deserved my congratulations.
I also learned how to stop comparing and truly listen to this quote I found on Tumblr:
Stop comparing where you're at with where everyone else is. It doesn't move you farther ahead, improve your situation or help you find peace. It just feeds your shame, fuels your feelings of inadequacy and ultimately, it keeps you stuck. The reality is that there is no one correct path in life. Everyone has their own unique journey.
— Daniell Koepke
2. You learn to be a team-player.
Co-workers are part of a team, and within that, interns are their own mini (unpaid) team. If you go about your day alongside other interns, you learn about what it means to have someone else's back at work.
When everyone else in the office is too busy to hold a proper conversation with you or go grab a meal with you at lunchtime, your fellow interns are there for you.
You help them understand how WordPress works when they're too embarrassed to ask a staff member, and in return, they give you golden advice based on their own experiences – like who you should CC in an email if you want to make sure your pitches actually get read.
3. You make like-minded friends.
Before starting my internship, I had an awesome group of friends (and I still do). But none of them studied the same thing as me in college, had a similar passion for writing or obsessed over the same publications I did.
During my internship, I befriended people who studied similar things to what I studied, were also pursuing careers in the media industry and genuinely enjoyed reading from the same publications as me. It was new, and it was awesome.
We read each other's articles and blog posts, and we became one when we complained about our internship experiences in our secret "interns only" Facebook group.
When you're not the only intern at a company, you get the chance to meet and befriend like-minded people.
Despite your differing backgrounds, you have things in common: You obviously all love the company you intern for (why else would you work for free?), and you're all desperately trying to kick-start your dream career.
Who knows? Your intern peers today could be your co-workers tomorrow.
They could also be your pathway toward a real job, or even your support system as you continue to try and make a name for yourself.
And that's pretty priceless.
This article was originally published on the author's personal blog.