Summer is the season of internships, and in New York City, you can spot an intern from a mile away. They're marked by their crumpled blazers and the fact that they're carrying multiple hot coffees and sprinting in flats to catch the subway.
I've been lucky to have multiple internships in a few different sides of the media industry, and most of them didn't turn me into the frantic intern that the stereotype suggests. However, it wasn't always easy. My first internship could have been the sequel to "The Devil Wears Prada," and I still reflect on some of the crazy, ridiculous things I did that summer.
My Devil Wears Prada (DWP) internship was at a small PR firm, and I paid $35 a day for my 2-hour commute to and from work with no compensation from the company. I sat on an ottoman and brought my own laptop into the office, and didn't know we were allowed to take lunch breaks until halfway through the summer when the boss said we could leave the office for a few minutes if we needed to. I spent my first whole week trying to book a hotel for my boss, who wanted an impossibly cheap-but-fancy Chelsea airbnb rental that was kid-friendly and not a walkup (I asked my co-interns what city 'Chelsea' was, if it was close to the Upper East Side, and which part of Manhattan Brooklyn was in.)
I cleaned out inventory closets, moved heavy boxes between offices, and ran back to Starbucks when a cup of coffee was deemed 'not hot enough.' I burned my hand a few too many times on dress steamers and spent hours emailing every media contact in the industry or making personal calls to agents. At the end of the day, I would take the train back to my grandparents' house and cry to them about my shrinking bank account and hopeless career path.
Looking back at all of the negative parts, though, I am so immensely grateful that I was granted that internship. It taught me so many things about the media industry and gave me insight into my hopeful career that led to me where I am now. Most of all: it was humbling.
I'd come from a selective college and was convinced that my high school accomplishments made me a shoe-in for fancy, a-list media jobs. My DWP internship showed me how completely naive I was. There's something about doing mundane tasks that makes you realize you are not better than anyone, and that no job is 'beneath' you. I was an intern because I had no experience, and it became so clear to me that every person in my industry was successful because they worked hard and started out as the coffee-getter or copy-maker.
Once I became proud of my remedial assignments, I started being a better intern and a harder worker. And once that happened, my bosses trusted me more when it came to brainstorming ideas or writing pitches; by the end of the summer, I was able to balance the lower-level tasks with some of the creative work that they'd started assigning me.
I learned everything from networking to how to write a campaign pitch, and my bosses taught me these things even though I'd come to them with no real background or skillset. I wasn't qualified, at the age of 20, to work in a high-profile firm, but they gave me an opportunity that changed my entire life.
So, as I pursue my own entry-level job that will likely consist of getting coffee and emailing media contacts, I am so grateful to my DWP internship for giving me thick skin, scheduling skills, and a sense of humility.