I should really be packing right now. I'm leaving for school in approximately six hours, which to a normal person would seem like more than enough time to get your life's belongings together and stuff it into two oversized suitcases and a stolen basket from the Korean supermarket (H-Mart, if you must know). Ah, but that is where our differences lie. I know that if I don't get started within the next 30 minutes or so, I will inevitably end up passing out among piles of discarded clothing (while resourcefully using my hamper as a headrest) only to wake up in the morning to my mom bursting through the door and shrieking with horror, "I knew I shouldn't have treated you like an adult and let you pack by yourself OH MY GOD WHAT ON EARTH WAS I THINKING??!!?!"
But I'll blog anyway.
This summer will hopefully mark the end of a very enlightening chapter of my life: that of the unpaid internship. Ironically, the only internship that ever paid me hourly wages was the one I had at a community newspaper the summer of my freshman year. Since then, I have been on a hot streak of free labor -- can't complain too much though, as the workload was always manageable and the experiences very valuable, whether bad or good. And with that, even though you didn't ask, I present to you my own curated list of How to Be a Great Intern! I didn't actually do all these things but I really should have.
1) Be nice. So seemingly simple, yet so very easy to forget. Remember, this is a workplace. Your boss is not your mom and therefore not obligated to love you despite a temper tantrum or a contagiously bad mood you're in because the dress you bought full-price last week is now marked half off (though I completely sympathize with your distress in that circumstance). No need to be a creepy cheery robot, but a smile and an upbeat "I'm on it!" when they ask you to do things go a long way. They have a lot on their plate and you're essentially there to make their lives a little easier, so be willing and enthusiastic to fill that role.
2) Nothing is beneath you. So he wants you to run out and get him some ridiculously detailed coffee order that you feel pretentious even repeating at the Starbucks counter? Fine. Make 100 photocopies and oh, while you're at it, can you figure out how to replace the cartridge too? Sure thing. Obviously if a task is borderline degrading, you should by all means refuse, but professionals always say that if they can't trust you with the small stuff, there is no way in hell they'll let you handle the bigger ones. (Luckily, the only physically bothersome task I had to do was bring envelopes to the mailroom in the lobby, but even that I came to regard as my daily fitness of sorts. Hm. I should really exercise more.)
3) Take the initiative. If you really have nothing to do and your brain cells are depleting from staring at the cursor blink hypnotically on your computer screen, ask for something! Make up your own project and propose an idea! The plan might not come to fruition but at least you tried and your colleagues will take note. Unless you're getting specific assignments to keep you occupied every hour, an internship is really what you make of it so be the annoying self-starter and read up on company archives or get started on research for something due next week. Interning at an entertainment website this summer made me feel as if I weren't watching enough television during the week (yes, really) as I had nothing to contribute during our daily meetings. As a result, I started keeping up with weird shows on obscure networks that I knew nobody at the site was covering and created a small niche for myself from which I could generate story ideas and write posts about.
4a) Make some friends. I cannot stress how much more enjoyable your time at work will be if you have friends in the office with whom you can chat, grab lunch, and periodically email during bouts of boredom throughout the day. It was easy to meet people at my first internship because we all sat within arm's length of each other, but it seemed like it would be harder at GQ because I was in my own little cubicle on a separate floor from the other intern in my department. At first, we mostly communicated through GChat (also another work-time lifesaver), but soon became partners in productivity and perpetual lunch buddies. He left two weeks earlier than me so I was ready to dine solo but right before his departure, I had befriended another intern who sat on the other side of the partition between us but to whom I had barely spoken (though I would often hear her sneeze and blow her nose, so I felt as if some lines were crossed anyway). Turns out we shared a rabid love of Shake Shack and trashy reality shows, the latter of which we'd discuss while gorging on the former's exquisite slabs of meat.
4b) Go to company events. I mean, sure it's intimidating to play softball (and certifiably suck at it) alongside a hotshot editor whose name you've read in print multiple times and admired its length/uniqueness and consequent easy Googleability (always a looming concern for Asians whose names don't usually exceed eight letters and are shared by at least 100 other people who are more accomplished than yourself and thus placed much higher in coveted search results), but GO FOR IT. I met incredibly cool people from all different departments of the magazine through the games and those nights remain the highlight of my internship -- especially in sports settings, your team will be supportive no matter what, even if you just so happen to go up to bat whenever there are already two outs on the line (I won't finish the story, but you can guess what happens next). We sometimes won, sometimes got creamed to the point that the severity of our loss became downright laughable, but we always went out for pizza and drinks afterward (on the company tab, no less) and had a jolly good time.
5) KEEP IN TOUCH. I am admittedly horrible at this but am trying to improve. First thing is to make sure to end on a good note -- handwritten thank-you cards and homemade pastries was my parting of choice this summer (though I warned the recipients of my cupcakes that I couldn't attest to their edibility in the slightest, not exactly Sara Lee over here). Distributing snacks at the office is like throwing carrion into a den of vultures -- there will be ravaging, and you'll be kindly remembered as the one who provided such midday delights. After you're gone, check in with an email every now and then, updating them with any recent activities; even if they don't get a chance to reply, they'll at least have read it. Being well-connected with access to different contacts will forever be useful, even for making chitchat with a stranger who insists on playing the, "Oh, do you know so-and-so?" game we all fall prey to every now and then.