I had only one internship, and it was paid (though barely). I was interning with a small, start up wire service in the St. Louis area to provide stories for weekly newspapers. There were two of us, and the entrepreneur who ran the service only had room in the office he rented for one. So the idea was that we would split time there, with me starting out working from home the first half of the summer and the other intern getting the office gig.
I learned that at least then, working from home wasn't my thing. I was renting the upstairs room of an elderly woman who had room to spare. I didn't know anyone, and I didn't have an office environment to learn from. So I guess a positive spin on that is I learned to appreciate the value of office collaboration. I also learned to be resourceful, to manage my own time, and to leave the house quietly. (the last has very few work applications)
Any internship, at least if you are a writer, provides good material for a resume, and writing samples, which were door openers back then.
Unfortunately, after only a month and a half, I had to quit in the middle of the internship. The small amount I was making in commission from the newspapers I wrote stories for did not cover rent and food. And I did not have enough experience at the time to market myself more effectively.
I ended up finishing the summer working as a bus boy at a pizza parlor back home, a job that did nothing for my future career but at least allowed me to put a little into my savings account. And I loved the benefits of free food and pizza!!
Sent: 02-01-2022 10:46
From: Maria Mooshil
Subject: What life lessons did you learn or takeaways did you get from an internship?
A recent New York Times article explored the pros and cons of unpaid internships with social media influencers. Is Interning for an Influencer Worth It? - The New York Times (nytimes.com) It seems the experience you can get supporting a TikTok content creator for free is worth the financial sacrifice to improve your own shot at becoming an influencer.
I don't know whether unpaid internships will be worthwhile for these young people, but I do know my unpaid internship decades ago was, as it taught me a couple of life lessons even if I didn't realize it at the time.
My unpaid college internship was for a one-woman PR firm in Chicago. I had reached out to her to volunteer my services over summer break before senior year to determine whether public relations would be a good career fit. The PR woman shared office space with an event planner, and the two women, who appeared to be friends, often worked together on some really cool projects. I was learning a lot in just the first 2-3 weeks of my stint and really enjoyed the work. But I couldn't bear how awfully the PR woman treated her suite mate. She talked down to her, screamed at her, berated her … it was terrible! After my third week, I told her my circumstances had changed and I had to take another job that paid me (which I did; a friend's office needed a receptionist and was willing to hire me for the rest of the summer), and so I left.
My lesson? Mutual respect and camaraderie are, for me, as – if not more – important than the work. I also got insight about myself, though it took years to see it: I wasn't forthright about why I left. Instead, I fudged it to avoid confrontation, which I now see was a recurring theme in my early life. And my lack of courage did her a disservice, because had I been upfront about why I was leaving, it *may* have helped her become a better person. I spent too many years handling tough situations similarly, and have since discovered I won't disintegrate if I share my thoughts, feelings, and needs with others, both personally and professionally.
I'm really interested to hear others' internship stories. What was your biggest takeaway from your (paid or unpaid) internship?