A Day in the Life of an Intern

by Kristina on June 9, 2011 · 6 comments

This past weekend I discovered a television show called Running in Heels.  It chronicles the lives of three interns who are currently working at a fashion magazine as interns, but hope to eventually land their dream job.  I know that it is common for last year high school students to intern for a semester.  It is also common for high school students to join a cooperative work program which gives the student work experience as part of a class assignment.

Internships are more common for university or college graduates. Either during our last year of university or after we have graduated, it is common for university or college graduates to apply for an internship with a company in their field of study.

Internships could be either paid or unpaid, although paid internships are rare.  If the internship is paid, the rate of pay is usually very low.  Internships require long working hours, and they can also be very demanding and time consuming.

I took the time to interview a (former) young intern named Veronica who said that the upside of being an intern is that she gained a lot of valuable experience; she also made very important business contacts and connections to help further her career.

The purpose of an internship is to gain valuable work experience.  The downside of an internship is that companies usually do not guarantee a job offer at the end of the internship.  Companies also use internships as free labour.  They hire a handful of interns who are willing to work hard and complete any task for little or no pay, in hopes of landing their dream job in the future.

Veronica worked 4 days and 25 to 30 hours a week at her internship while still studying full time in university.  During her internship Veronica only worked and studied, she had no time or energy for a social life.  She only visited with her family while school was not in session during summer vacation or the holiday break in December.

Just as we all have to apply for our job and go through the interview process, Veronica was responsible for applying to and interviewing for her internship.  Her university did provide assistance with resume and interview tips as well as potential companies who hire interns.  However, it was Veronica’s responsibility to pro actively approach potential companies for her internship.

Veronica’s responsibilities as an intern extended way beyond taking coffee orders and running errands.  She had a lot of responsibilities such as participating in daily meetings, scheduling appointments with potential customers, as well as inventory management.  Veronica was doing the work of a full time employee without a full time pay check.  Although she was not paid for her internship Veronica was rewarded with material goods and other work perks.

As her internship was not paid Veronica had to work part time while studying and working 4 days a week at her internship. She was gaining valuable work experience from both her part time job as well as her internship.  When her internship finished all of Veronica’s hard work paid off because the company offered her a full time job.  However, Veronica was unable to accept the full time position because she was still studying full time in university.  When Veronica graduated from university she called the owner of the company where she completed her internship and he referred her to his friend who had a full time position available.  Veronica is now employed full time.

Although her life during University was hectic and tiring, Veronica agrees that her experience as an intern is very helpful in her current full time job.  She says that if she had never experienced life as an intern, she would not have made the business connection that allowed her to find full time employment when she graduated from university.


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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nicole June 9, 2011 at 7:24 am

Great write up! However, I disagree on two points:

1) Most Internships are Unpaid, and the others pay low wages: This depends on what industry you are in. It would be rare in my field (software development) to find a unpaid internship. Most pay slightly more than minimum wage ($10 an hour for me) but this allowed me to work full time and go to school full time without needing a second job like Veronica. My engineering friends made more than this, making $15-$17 an hour for an internship.

2) Internships are Senior Year or Post Graduation: If you waited this long, good luck. You can start interning as a Freshman (depending on field/skill). I started Jr. year and wish I had started earlier. My career councilor said this is one of the biggest misunderstandings about internships.

2 Brian June 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm

I agree with Nicole, it really depends on your field of study. I was an engineering student and my Co-Op (I interned at the same company every other semester) paid $13/hr plus overtime (which I was required to do). My friends who weren’t studying the sciences tended to get the unpaid internships (though one had a great time as an intern for Jerry Springer). The experience I gained from my internship was extremely valuable and made me realize that I didn’t want to be an engineer.

Nicole is also correct that you really should be looking for an internship starting you sophmore year (freshman year is ok if you don’t mind being a glorified Gofer). This really gets you a step ahead and many times can lead to a job straight out of college with that company.

3 Kristina June 10, 2011 at 6:50 pm

I couldn’t imagine being a 19 year old freshman and having to juggle a full time school schedule as well as an internship that could possibly lead to my future career. I think back to my lifestyle when I first move away from home to attend university and I don’t think that I would have made a good first impression as a 19 year old first year university student….but that’s just me.

4 Paula @ AffordAnything.org June 13, 2011 at 6:41 pm

I took internships in college … but not with companies/organizations that I actually wanted to work for. Everyone said that an internship looks good on your resume, so I made the mistake of just taking the first internship I found, rather than searching for one at a company I wanted to work for, or even within a field I particularly wanted to work in. I thought it was just a resume-booster …. I only learned after college, in hindsight, that it’s often an introduction to your new office!

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