Think you're just wasting your time with pointless internships and their crappy/nonexistent wages? Think again! I've realized you learn valuable lessons from each one, and you take these lessons with you when you go on to bigger and better things.
So much discussion and debate surrounds the topic of internships: Do they pay enough? Do they treat you fairly? Are you learning anything?
I've done my fair share of internships, from big fashion magazines to television channels, and when I look back, there were a lot of tears, frustrations and very late nights. But, it was all worth it.
It's the best opportunity to make mistakes before you get a real job because ultimately, what you do won't demolish the entire business (hopefully). Don't be afraid to ask for help or make a few errors along the way. When you do, keep it in mind so you don't make the same mistakes in the future.
There's a lot to gain and even the jobs that seem meaningless at the time will teach you something, trust me.
I've picked up pets, done daily Whole Foods runs and made so many teas, I could be a barista with my eyes closed. Here's why internships, even the ones that seem awful, will help you in life:
1. You appreciate the next venture
When you're an intern, things can seem overwhelming very easily. Your main goal is to impress the boss and complete everything to a high standard without having a nervous breakdown.
There will definitely be days when you find yourself struggling, but the next thing you get (whether it's another internship or a job), will seem SO much better.
You'll take what you've learned (something as small as fixing a jammed shredder or something as big as how to run an event), and you'll be able to adapt it to fit your next venture.
Trust me, you'll be grateful for your initial experience. Those people who don't try out internships at first may find themselves completely swamped and unprepared when they step out into the big bad world, so this is helpful.
2. You learn to say no
Sometimes, the line is blurred between what's acceptable and what's not. You might not have a problem picking up stationary supplies, but you may think picking up new underwear for the boss' boyfriend is a step too far.
You don't want to offend anyone by saying no, but if you feel like you're being asked to do something you aren't comfortable doing or something completely ridiculous, you need speak up.
Once you give off the impression that you'll do every personal task they ask, they'll give you more. Be firm; this will give you more confidence, which is always good. Remember, you're there to learn, not just run errands.
3. Future potential employers can see you're dedicated
When you're polishing up your CV, it looks good that you stuck it out and lasted more than a few weeks at your internship.
Waking up early, commuting and spending a huge chunk of your wage on travel/food/crisp white shirts isn't always fun, but you need to get used to it to prepare yourself for future jobs.
Even if you felt like watching paint dry would have been a lot more entertaining, get through it and show it off when you're writing your next cover letter.
4. It gives you an edge
You will hopefully make good connections. Even if it's not in the field in which you want to pursue career, it's good to network. Who knows, they may be able to help you somewhere down the line.
It'll also make it easier when you transition into a new job because you've already got that experience of settling in somewhere and learning to work with different people.
Some people do internships completely unrelated to the careers they want, but just the fact that you've explored a new path is great.
5. You'll learn to make a good cup of coffee
While this may sound silly, so many employers complain their interns can't do even the most basic things. Familiarize yourself with Word, Excel and a coffee machine.
If all you take from your internship is that you know how to make a good coffee, at least that's one thing you can take with you to your next place of work. You can impress your boss with your initiative to place his or her usual “milky with one sugar” on the desk in the mornings.
You don't want to be that person who starts a new job and every time someone asks for a coffee, you run to Starbucks, bring it back and pour it in a cup because you have a horrific phobia of coffee machines. (I've seen it before.)
6. You have funny stories to tell around the dinner table
If your internship is ridiculous and at the time, you thought it was exactly like something out of "Ugly Betty," I'm sure it'll make a good story.
People are usually in hysterics when I tell them about some of the things I've had to do in my five years of interning.
If you've had a dream-like fantasy that you'll basically be Lauren Conrad, you will take a mandatory nosedive back to planet earth when you realize the reality of internships.
Whether you're telling friends over a bottle of wine the weekend after or laughing five years down the line at a dinner party, it'll be funny and you'll be the bigger person for seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
You end up learning to make fun of yourself and not take things so seriously.
7. There's room for mistakes
When you start a job, you'll be expected to bring something to the table. You should be organized, confident and proactive, but sometimes, it's hard to know where to begin. That's why internships come in handy.
During one of my first internships, I made the mistake of writing down all my tasks in my notebook and then filling it with a million other things, like notes, phone numbers, addresses and people's names.
By the end of the day, it was a complete mess, and I don't know how I managed to get anything done like that.
Then, one of the girls advised me to create a spreadsheet with different tabs at the bottom for various things. It was so simple and I was embarrassed for not thinking of it myself, but when you're somewhere new, there's so much going on, common sense can fly out the window quickly.
Such a small, effortless thing helped me a ridiculous amount, and from that point on, I didn't have a hard time organizing myself.
8. We're living in the real world
If you're 21-plus, you're probably already starting to feel kind of old, but you're not.
People you know may be having kids, getting engaged, getting married and buying houses while you're still binge-watching "Orange Is The New Black." And, that's absolutely fine.
The majority of us have now accepted (or are still trying to accept) that being on the next series like "The Hills" isn't in the cards, and the dream of having a job where you do minimal work is not THAT likely to happen.
But, we are growing up, and that means accepting we'll have to get real, adult jobs at some point in the not-so-distant future. Get prepared!