what you can take away from an internship when it isn’t money

I’ve had multiple remote internships but only had my first “real” internship the second semester of my senior year of college. Though no job came out of this time, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I feel that in six month’s time, I grew more in this office than I had any time previous during my college experience:  I was able to see more clearly than ever before the type of environment I desired to work in and the type of work I’d like to do.  Ideas I had were listened to, considered, and sometimes came into fruition.  I was able to interact daily with like-minded people in a professional setting.

Without getting into specifics that I think will take away from the universality of it all, I want to focus on the idea that good experiences don’t have to be calculated in the form of credits earned or dollars received.  Here are the three greatest takeaways from my first in-office internship that weren’t necessarily monetarily-based:

Commuting is absolutely what you make of it.

Personally, I don’t know how people can commute five days a week every week, month

2016-03-15 15.18.25

Me, matching my MetroCard (also proof that I could strut myself around without getting completely lost).

after month, year after year. The idea is not only mentally draining, but physically (and financially) draining as well. However, I will say that it was during the three-hour cumulative train ride that my productivity soared. As I idly chugged along to Hoboken,
I was able to finish assignments, write in my journal, and catch up on reading for pleasure. And when I wasn’t feeling as productive, it was a time I could catch up on my sleep and hope that I didn’t miss my stop.

You’ll never master a skill until you put it into practice!

I am notoriously bad with directions (seriously, ask any friend of mine), which was a main factor in my deterrence from spending any time in New York City. It wasn’t until I had an obligation that I couldn’t back out from (though for this reason alone I contemplated resigning before I ever really started) that I was able to learn how to navigate the subway system. While I consider myself a master of the 1 Train, there’s still a lot about NYC transportation I don’t know. However, being in the city and forcing myself to integrate myself into this commuter-lifestyle is the only time I was able to really learn.

Every task, no matter how small, is meaningful.

While I did do a lot of work in alignment with my future career and was able to see how a successful business is owned and operated on a daily basis, there was miscellaneous office work I was responsible for that did not have a direct correlation to my desired position. This, however, ultimately does not matter. In my experience, with each completed task comes an establishment of rapport between intern and boss. When you can complete work that your boss asks of you, directly related to company business or otherwise, your boss is then more inclined to trust you with bigger tasks and more important work, as it proves both your willingness to work and competence.   While it seems like a drag, memorizing your boss’s coffee order is ultimately low-risk, high-reward.

Job or no job, internships are going to be what you make of it.  It’s a gentle introduction to the “real-world” that you’re able to walk away from and reflect upon at the end.


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