For Teens By Teens: Intern’s Guide

Social life:

If you got an internship in a new area, I’d give you a week—two, tops—before you go completely insane from spending all of your time with adults. That’s about how long it took me; then I found a group of interns in DC who met once a week for dinner at a host family’s house.

Trust me, after a week of sitting at a desk surrounded by adults, you’re going to want to go out in shorts and a T-shirt and talk about something other than your co-workers’ children, what college you are at, or the career that you should supposedly have completely mapped out by now.

There are plenty of cons when it comes to having a full-time summer internship—I’m sure I don’t need to list them—but one thing to appreciate is the no-homework situation. Once you leave that office, you’re free! Yes, you have decided to give up your summer, but that does not mean you signed up to spend 24/7 behind a desk. This may be the first time in your life that you have almost complete control over your schedule. If you have a 9 to 5 job, that gives you a solid six hours post-work and possibly some early morning time to do whatever comes to mind.

A good first step is to write down a bunch of stuff you want to do, experience, or accomplish during your summer. Then you need to find a group of people your age and in a situation similar to yours.

If you are in a big city, it should be no problem finding a group of interns; just ask around. You can find them through a co-worker, church, or even the app “Meetup”! Once you have found these people, start a group chat, to make it easy to coordinate group hangouts.

This summer my group went to jazz and folk festivals, DC monuments at night, movies, baseball games, and each other’s apartments for game nights. Don’t become a drone just because you aren’t at the beach or on a cruise all summer. You can have just as much fun if you put in a bit of effort.

Work Life:

Just like in pretty much any other situation, your acceptance and subsequent success in internships depends on your social skills. Yes, it can be exhausting. Building good relationships with your co-workers is extremely important, though, and they must start from a place of respect. There are lots of ways to show respect, but one significant and practical approach is to sacrifice your time.

My motto for an internship workday is, if you aren’t 15 minutes early, you are late, and if you’re late, you’d better be bleeding. My workday started at 8 AM; I arrived at 7:45 every single day. I was able to set out the newspapers, listen to and transcribe the voicemails, and check my e-mail, all before my boss arrived. There was one other intern in the office, and he was consistently 10 minutes late, even though he lived 50 minutes closer to the office than I did.

I don’t mean to drag the poor guy over the coals; I don’t want you making the same mistakes as he did, because they weremistakes. Your co-workers notice when you are late, they just do. Lateness is a sign of disrespect, and it is almost impossible to create successful relationships with this as your foundation.

Because of simple things like showing up early, the difference between my success and the other intern’s was significant—not that it’s a competition or anything. My boss became aware of the respect I had for my job and had no problem letting me go to intern lectures and interviews during work hours; she even gave me a Friday off when my family came to visit. Even my co-workers put me in touch with previous employers and co-workers, vouching for me, on introduction. It may seem unnecessary—after all, you are already giving them free labor, but putting in that extra bit of effort will open up a lot of opportunities.



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