It’s a drag to be at the bottom of the food chain, isn’t it? Most of us have been there at some point in our education and career, haven’t we? Internships are – unless done here at iHeartBerlin of course – usually unrewarding, underpaid (if at all), exploitive, and in most cases the only thing you really learn is how to suck it up. Well, you can be lucky too, of course. But how often have you heard someone talking about this amazing internship they did last summer? Right, never.
So why are internships usually so tough? Here are a few of the main reasons why you have to stay strong as an intern.
It’s not Work – It’s Chores
You study for years to get a proper education and graduate with flying colours. You conquer the job/internship market and score your first position. You start your new internship with so much enthusiasm to finally put your knowledge to practice. And then you are faced with tasks such as filing, getting lunch, running errands, making copies, loading and unloading the dishwasher. This is not work – these are chores! You are overqualified for this! Well, wake up and smell the coffee. The description of the position included “office management” and that’s what you got: Managing paperclips and mugs.
But don’t give up. This is just the cruel initiation game! As soon as you have convinced your coworkers you are somehow responsible and competent they will quickly load all the real work on top of you as well 😉
Just a Couple of Extra Hours
Speaking of which: It will take them a while to trust you with real work and real clients. But it won’t take them long to entrust you with the office keys so that you can come first in the morning and go last in the evening to open up and close the office. It doesn’t take a math genius to add two and two together and realize that you will basically be working longer than everyone else. But hey, at least you can do whatever you want once the last person has left. You can watch Netflix in the conference room and order pizza!
The Really Bad Pay
Wages in Berlin are already a joke, but when it comes to internships it gets worse. There are very few companies offering the luxury of a real payment for internship. All the interesting ones probably don’t. You might get a tiny, almost symbolic payment (well, better than nothing!) or in many cases you get nothing and mom and dad have to chip in. Well, the rent and food (and long weekends at Berghain) don’t pay for themselves and you will hardly have the time to work another job on the side, right? The struggle is real! But at least it teaches you to learn how to live off the basics. So see this experience as some sort of survival training.
Being the Bottom Bitch
You are so low in the hierarchy as an intern that you will probably never even see your boss. (I’ve heard of cases where interns were not allowed to look at the boss. True story…) But maybe that’s a good thing, really. Ultimately you will have to deal with someone above you and they will make you feel it by giving you all the crap work that they don’t want and using you as punching bag when they are in a bad mood. You are the bottom bitch, so to speak. And until you can get some dirt on your superiors, there is really nothing much you can do about it other than just dealing with it.
The Meek Letter of Reference
Once you’ve hustled through the entire length of 3 months of your internship that felt more like 2 years, you’ve finally made it! The reward is your letter of reference that should open doors to better jobs. But hold up! What is this? A completely generic letter written by someone you never met full of code phrases that basically translate to: She/he was ok. Of course you were “just ok” considering you hardly did anything other than milking the coffee maker and waiting by the copy machine. But for making you go through this dreadful grind they could have at least had the courtesy to dream up some good qualities that might convince the next HR guy that you are better than the rest, right? Our advice to avoid this disappointment: Write your own letter of reference! You take a burden off their shoulders and you can include those points that you deem helpful for your next application. It’s a total win-win!
So how did your last internship go?