I wanted to take this peaceful moment when my supervisor isn’t bombarding me with emails to share my thoughts on internships. While there are people who can probably provide more complete opinions on this because they’ve done five or six internships, I’ve only done two, but I still feel like that is one too many.
I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to have interned where I have – first at the fifth ranked lobbying firm in the nation, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck in Washington, DC, and now at the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office (the only democratic office worth interning for in Utah aside from Rep. Jim Matheson’s Office). While they have both offered me applicable experience and interactions with some of the most accomplished and inspirational people I’ve ever met, I sometimes don’t feel as happy about being an intern as I probably should be.
The hardest part about it isn’t even being unpaid. I loved working for free in DC. I was lucky to receive a scholarship from my university to cover living costs, but I really didn’t mind working for free at Brownstein because the projects I was assigned were interesting and I came to work energetic, enthusiastic and ready to work.
This may only go for political internships, and maybe I’m just being a big baby – but the toughest part about being an intern is the way you’re treated. It definitely took some getting used to, but your supervisors won’t always thank you for your work or even tell you that you did a good job on it – I remember constantly worrying about if my work was okay. I would freak out when my workload would get smaller, thinking that I wasn’t doing a good job and that’s why they had given me less work.
So I’ve pretty much gotten used to not getting any replies to my emails and not hearing back from my supervisors for days at a time. I got used to working independently and working my hardest, but not necessarily receiving any feedback on it. No feedback is better than bad feedback, and as long as they’re still giving you work then that means you’re doing a good job.
The other thing that crosses my mind once in a while is whether or not this is even going to help me. When will this end? I can’t work for free forever! While I have been able to become acquainted with some really cool people who have given me so much worthwhile advice, it isn’t going to help me when there just aren’t any openings. The nature of this economy is tightening the number of jobs available, and unless you really know someone who has the authority to hand you a job, it’s hard. On top of that, being a Democrat in this red state of Utah makes it more difficult because the party just doesn’t have any money.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t enjoy it. I wouldn’t have worked to get this internship if I didn’t think it would be rewarding, and it has been. I just worry sometimes that I’m working my butt off for nothing. But I’ve been getting my assignments done as efficiently and timely as possible and reaching out to complete strangers who I feel could help me, regardless of how awkward it is. I really hope these efforts pay off eventually. Everybody has to start somewhere, right?