Student Voices is a WOA blog feature that presents the experiences and point of views of current arts students around campus. Get to know our creative and passionate students through their “voices” and get a snapshot of life as an arts undergrad. The views and opinions expressed within these student voices posts are solely those of the author.
Being an intern is a little bit like living two lives. When I dress up for work — complete with a belt and a collared shirt — it feels an awful lot like putting on a superhero mask. It’s a front; it isn’t who I am. I’m still a student. I don’t have to worry about the working world and the-rest-of-my-life yet.
I think that in-between-ness is an intern’s superpower. Use it.
How to use your intern powers for a greater good
- Think about your situation. What are your preconceptions? What would you like to get out of this experience?
- Get to know your super-team. When possible, get people to explain their positions to you, to get a better idea of how you’ll interact with each other professionally.
- Ask questions! You’re the only one who can say for sure what you don’t know.
- Share your goals with your supervisor. How realistic are they? Is there anything your supervisor can do to help you grow?
- Go out of your comfort zone if it means you can learn something new. You may wind up with a seemingly random assortment of skills (say, knowing fire-retardant policies for banners, the University’s Content Management System, and how to print brochures on a Xerox) that might become applicable down the line.
Ultimately, I think the qualities that will help you get the most out of an internship experience are open-mindedness and a positive outlook. Not everything you do will be glorious. Some of it might be reminiscent of “grinding” in video games – performing repetitive tasks to level up.
But sometimes all it takes to have a good time – or to feel that an internship experience has been worthwhile – is to change your perspective.
With great power comes great responsibility
If you’ve ever been to CAPS, you’ve probably talked to someone at the front desk. When I first started my internship, I avoided these shifts like the plague. Using phones makes me anxious. I’d never handled cash in my life. I felt ill-equipped to answer basic questions like What can I do with my degree? Little did I know I would be scheduled to spend weekly shifts at the front desk.
My first responses were dread and resentfulness. Surely my time was better spent elsewhere?
Sometimes all it takes to have a good time – or to feel that an internship experience has been worthwhile – is to change your perspective.
Now, the way I look at it is that I have a chance to develop some of my weaker skills (such as customer service) and to interact with students who use our services. One of my main responsibilities is to promote CAPS services, and my time at the front desk is an opportunity to gauge how those efforts are (or aren’t) affecting people.
But I still have to take several steadying breaths and rehearse my greeting before I pick up a phone. I still think it’s weird that students — my peers — talk to me like I know what they should do with their lives. A lot of my situation hasn’t changed – but my perspective has. Recognizing the relevance and usefulness of tasks I dislike transforms the experience from a chore to a responsibility. The difference is subtle, but there.
Maybe you won’t save the world, but that doesn’t make your role any less important. So keep calm and carry on, superhero.