Monday, July 7, 2008

Internship: A Golden Opportunity If You Know How to Spin Gold Out of Straw

The playbill for the 2008 “Free Shakespeare in Barnsdall Park” (Los Angeles) by the Independent Shakespeare Company ( listed the company members for the production of HENRY IV (parts 1 and 2). I noted the last item on the company list – intern – and a male name. Yes, I said to myself, someone is getting a chance to follow his passion.

Now I don’t know whether this particular passion is acting or directing or stage management or theater company management. But I do know that someone is getting to see a theater production up close and personal. And whether this bird’s eye view encourages the intern to continue pursuing his passion – or turns him off forever to anything connected with the theater – the intern should be able to avoid regrets of never trying to follow his passion.

And while I also can’t know what the HENRY IVth intern is doing for the production, I read with interest Erin Chambers’ Wall Street Journal July 1st article “Tips to Make the Most of Summer Internships.” In general I agreed with many of the tips, which are as true for paying jobs as they are for unpaid internships.

I disagreed with the information under the heading “Don’t get discouraged.” Here’s what Chambers wrote: “If it’s been a few weeks, and you’re still just making photocopies, don’t fret – or complain. Request a meeting with your supervisor to ask about new projects.”

In many industries an internship is exactly that – making photocopies. But what goes along with making photocopies is usually the ability to read anything you’re handed to photocopy:

  • If you’re handed an office memo to photocopy, read it to learn how office memos are written. (Obviously you don’t repeat what you’re read.)

  • If you’re handed movie scripts to photocopy (entertainment industry), ask if it is okay to make a copy for yourself to read. (Again, obviously you don’t show this to anyone else outside the office.)

A summer spent photocopying may seem dull. Yet if you’ve made the best use of your time – such as carefully paying attention to what goes on around you concerning office politics – you will have learned a great deal of valuable information for your future path. Plus you may get enough insight to know whether you want to consider pursuing a career path in this field.

Good interns take lemons if that’s what they’re handed and make lemonade for their own learning experience. And those same good interns often get great letters of recommendation because they were team players and didn’t expect entitlements. (A relative of mine works with interns at a large company and told me he’s constantly surprised by the sense of entitlement the interns have.)

If there were an intern bill of rights, it would state:

  • You are not promised to get to do fascinating and challenging tasks at the workplace.

  • You are promised to learn a great deal if you keep your eyes and ears open.

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1 comment:

Jenny said...

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Thank you!