What I Learned From Being Fired From My Internship

When people tell you they survived an internship from hell, they usually mean they spent their summer going on coffee runs and transcribing interviews. When I tell you I survived two and a half weeks in the internship from hell, I mean I had no idea what to expect from an internship, and I got tremendously screwed over.

My clean answer to what happened with my summer internship is that “it didn’t work out,” but the reality is... I was fired. Did I do something wrong? No. Was I a bad intern? Not at all. The problem came when the company I worked for was as unprofessional and unorganized as it gets. I didn’t know what a real internship was supposed to be like.

Now, I am not trying to bad mouth the website I worked for, but simply pass on guidance to those who were like me. To those students who have never received an internship, here is advice from someone who was royally screwed. I'm passing on the most important things to look out for when applying and accepting your very first internship.

An internship is a two way street.

You might notice this when you are interviewing for any job or internship, but employers need to sell the position to you just as much as you need to sell yourself to them. An internship should be way more than just something to put on a resume and some free labor for the company. There should be a plan in place for you to learn and grow as a young professional. It’s usually a good start when your future employer offers examples of what YOU will get out of the experience.

There will always be flaky people.

Keep in contact with your internship coordinator consistently before you start, and know exactly what you need to do on day one. If you are finding they only answer emails once a week, haven’t given much detail about what you'll work on, or are flat out ignoring you, these are major red flags. If you don’t like their communication skills before the job, it probably won't get any better.

If you show up day one and they have no idea who you are, then that’s a bad sign. A real company will communicate with each other and be professional with their staff, paid or not. If you find yourself insulted, worried or uncomfortable with the work environment then they aren’t doing their duty to mentor you.

Get it in writing

Something as simple as having an email that answers everything you need to know about the internship is key to avoiding awkwardness when you arrive. You should have in writing the time and place you plan to start, how often you will be working and any stipend or payment you will receive. Also, make sure you know the hours you're required to work every day. You don’t want to seem lazy by walking in at 10 a.m. every day, when they really wanted you in at 9.

You are part of a team

You should never feel like an outsider in your work environment. If the entire staff goes into a meeting and leaves the interns alone in the office without instruction, that’s a huge red flag. Just because you are not a paid employee doesn’t mean you should be left out of the loop. Of course, some major businesses may have team meetings that are irrelevant to you, but if you are feeling like secrets are kept from you; that’s not OK. A good internship coordinator will keep you in the loop instead of disappearing.

Nobody should be desperate

Nobody is going to hire you just from your resume. Most internships require a cover letter, resume and at least one interview before offering a position. It’s even better if they require some kind of written test to gage how knowledgeable you are. The longer they take to hire you and the more steps there are, the more competitive and legitimate the internship is. If they hire you within a week of your first communication, and offer the most flexible schedule ever, it’s most likely a red flag.

I learned a lot from my two and a half weeks in hell, and just hope that nobody else has to deal with the same experience that I had. To say the least I am now interning somewhere else, and I couldn’t be happier. So I guess everything happens for a reason.

 

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