You are currently sitting at your lame excuse for a desk busily retyping Excel spreadsheets that were not “properly alphabetized” when the intern supervisor glides over with her trademark grin and asks if you would mind picking up some coffee for the advertising team.
“You know, they are getting worn out and they have a huge presentation coming up on Thursday. Just the regular order would be great; two Grande Skinny Vanilla Lattes – one with extra foam and one with an additional Splenda packet, of course – three non-fat Venti Caramel Macchiatos, one iced, two plain espressos, and then a iced tea for Jane who doesn’t drink coffee. Did I say two plain espressos? I meant four. Oh, and if you wouldn’t mind picking up these two orders from FedEx on the way, that would be great.”
Now, you have two options:
- You smile that big college-educated smile and say, “No problem! Not only do I love the feel of ten boiling hot coffees against my skin in 80-degree weather and most likely tripping on the curb and spilling them all over my new J.Crew cardigan, but I also relish every opportunity to perform tedious errands that only benefit the caffeine-addicted whims of your employees instead of my college education, which is funny since it appears I am getting college credit for this internship. Too bad I am not getting a degree in being a cardboard Starbucks coffee holder! Be back in a jiffy!”
- You smile that big college-educated smile and say, “No problem! I will be back as soon as possible. Tell the advertising team good luck!"
If you are still slightly sane after retyping all of those Excel spreadsheets, hopefully you will have the sense to choose option B. However, it is extremely tempting to choose option A when you are constantly subjected to mindless errands as an unpaid intern. From making copies to picking up Chinese food for everyone who is too busy to have a lunch break or picking up dry cleaning for your boss, it seems our employers never cease to find ways to mock our intelligence and our capabilities as a twenty-something student.
But never fear! Her Campus has assembled this handy guide to ensure your sanity and your continuing employment this summer, and to also remind you that you are not alone as an unpaid photocopying slave. If you have happened to land an internship this summer where you actually have some responsibility and have yet to set foot in a coffee shop or fast food restaurant, then you can happily mock us from your throne of internship bliss.
Keys to Surviving the Mindless Errands of an Unpaid Intern:
Put on a happy face. Underneath your smile you may be secretly plotting the death of your supervisor’s children, but just flash those pearly whites and pretend like nothing in the world makes you happier than putting files in alphabetical order and leaning over a copy machine for hours. Act like you get off on this stuff.
Learn how to say the same thing over and over. Examples: “No problem.” “I will get right on it.” “I will start as soon as possible.” “I have plenty of time to do that.” “I had just finished what I was doing anyway.” “Do you need anything else?”
Treat yourself to something special (and secret). Finished picking up that FedEx order a half an hour early? Stop into Sephora and try on some new eye shadow colors. Take a pit stop in Barnes & Noble and peruse the back covers of the new releases. Try on that outfit in the window at Gap. Just don’t get back to the office with handfuls of shopping bags. Remember: it never happened.
Listen to music. Bring your iPod to your internship so it can accompany you on your walks to Starbucks. Walk down the street like you are in Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 500 Days of Summer. Ask if you are allowed to listen to your iPod while transcribing interviews or entering data into spreadsheets. Everything is much better when set to the soundtrack of your life.
Bring Tide To-Go. Take it to work; they made it the size of a pen for a reason. After you inevitably spill coffee all over your new cardigan, just give the stain a little dab and you will be able to return to the office with what remains of your dignity.
Play with yourself. No, not like that. To make those tedious errands seem like a day at the boardwalk, pretend like you are playing a game. Play tag with the copy machines, juggle your erasers, and fold your used Post-it notes into origami swans. The office is your playground and your supervisor is the bully that hangs out under the monkey bars, so only play when no one is looking.
Exercise. To make sure you don’t get stiff staring at the computer all day, make up simple exercise routines you can do without anyone knowing. Clench your butt cheeks in reps of 20 while sitting in your office chair. Stands on your toes at the photocopier. (Check out this article for even more exercises you can do at your desk.)
Bring Band-aids. Those new flats from Banana Republic have left your feet looking like they have been chewed up by a wild animal, and without religiously reapplying Band-aids you will be awkwardly limping all over the office. You cannot hide the fear in your eyes when you supervisor tells you your next errand is ten blocks away without the comfort of unlimited Band-aids hiding in your purse. And if you have to wear heels to work, bring flip-flops in your bag for out-of-office errands.
Keep these handy tips in mind when you are asked to do yet another errand at your internship this summer, and just remember it’s all worth that extra line on your resume—we promise!