I regret to inform you that I’ve failed you. This is a topic that I have grossly overlooked, and as a result, I fear that many of you may have missed some opportunities. However, as the great Mark Twain once said, “better late than never, and better anything if it’s good enough when you think of it.” Many of you are likely in the midst of summer internships. How are they going? Are you having a good time? Learning a lot? I hope so. In any case, no matter how you spend your days as the submerged, unpaid base of the totem pole, there are a few things I’ve learned in my experience, both as an intern and as someone who has been tasked with coordinating interns, which I think you’ll all find valuable.
1. Do what you’re told.
The person in charge of running the interns loves and hates his job. On one hand, he gets to work with young people who are excited about the menial work that they’re given and will jump at any chance to be relevant. On the other, this person has to deal with entitled, inexperienced pricks who think that because they took a couple financial management courses, they know how the whole system works and how to fix or manipulate it. I don’t care how smart or well-studied you are, you don’t know shit compared to someone who’s worked in the industry you’re taking a work vacation in–and make no mistake, that’s what you’re doing. You might think that because you landed the most primo intern spot available that you’re a big shot now, but believe me, you’re in a glorified summer camp. Just like the church camp your parents made you go to, everything is put in place for you to have an “experience.”
In light of that, treat your intern coordinator like he’s your camp counselor. Listen to his rules and follow him to the fucking letter. He might be the lowest ranking member of the company, but a year or two from now when you want a real job from this company, your interview won’t mean shit compared to his personal recommendation. Then you’ll probably get the luxury of running the intern pool in his stead since he’ll get promoted by then. Circle of corporate life, my friends.
2. Sleep with someone.
If you have any reservations about work and relationship boundaries, don’t. It’s basically accepted–if not expected–that all the interns are going to fuck like rabbits. The great thing for HR is that it really doesn’t have to worry about any serious threats as far as employer liability goes for your sexual activity, so long as you keep it in the intern ranks. Sure, if you branch out and do the pantsless tango with a superior who actually works for the company, it could come into their purview, but let’s be honest–you probably won’t. The point I’m making is that all of you are still horny people in your early twenties, so exploit that. And I mean “exploit” in the best sense of the word, for both genders. Most of you probably come from different schools, so there’s no stigma or gossip attached to your actions. Sure, the other interns might talk, but who cares? You probably won’t see most of them ever again. Just don’t bring any relationship drama into the office. Nobody working full-time for the firm wants to deal with “will they, won’t they,” Ross and Rachel-type shit from the unpaid help. It’s unsavory.
3. Don’t try so hard.
This is advice I give a lot, possibly too much. There’s a reason that the next worst thing to a GDI is a try-hard. You do not work for this company. There’s a reason no one makes business cards for interns. It’s because no one gives a shit that you’re an intern. You could have the most coveted Wall Street internship on the planet, but flashing that information won’t even get you a decent booth at Quiznos, so chill. Are you expected to wear a coat and tie to work? Then do it. If not, don’t. There’s nothing more annoying than an intern in cufflinks running around in an office of salaried people dressed in business casual. Not only is it not conducive to you making a good impression, it’s just downright comical. The only thing that’s worse than being the shitty intern who’s bad at his job is being the shitty intern who takes his job too seriously.
4. Have some fun.
The worst thing you can do with an internship is completely treat it like you’re an adult in the workplace. No matter what you do, no matter how well you impress, everyone will view you as a college student. That’s not a bad thing, because you are. You’re not working stiff, because ultimately, you’re not being paid for a reason. As much work as you feel like you’re putting in, you are not an integral part of the company. There is no reputable company on the planet putting work in front of an intern that can truly and irreparably affect its bottom line. If it does, you chose a bad company to intern for. Your job is to interact and sort of work within the confines of the industry that you think you might want to be a part of, so don’t take it so damn seriously. I’m not saying you should get rowdy drunk and call in “sick” whenever you feel like it, but make sure you’re not wasting an entire summer treating your internship like it’s your career. It’s not. If people are going to think of you as a college kid, then be a college kid. Eat, drink, and be merry. You’ll have plenty of time to sacrifice fun in service of your future later.
P.S.: That Mark Twain quote from earlier is total bullshit. Doesn’t make it not true, though.