Taking on an internship always feels a little bit like a risk. On one hand, you could get the opportunity to learn from some of the best marketers in the world by joining Facebook’s marketing team. This would also build a strong network of professional contacts. On the other hand, you may have to deal with crazy requests that were not listed in the job description. There’s nothing worse than taking an internship that doesn’t fulfill your career goals. Here are some of the most terrible internships I’ve noticed and I take comfort in knowing you’re not alone.
Perfect in Every Way
I once interned for a small European magazine and had to help out with distribution. We were instructed to hang out around metro stations, hand random people magazines, & take pictures. Apparently, there are plenty of people who don’t have an issue with the camera. One guy cursed at me in French when I took his picture, and since my French is terrible, I just said ‘sorry’ and then cried over a baguette in the park like a much more fragile Anne Hathaway. In a recent survey, it’s been shown that 32% of interns are now eating carbs on a daily basis, which allows them to feel better.
One of the very first things I remember doing in the media industry was taking orders. When I was interning at a women’s magazine, a very particular editor-in-chief gave me a list of things I needed to do that day. Most of the errands I had to run were pretty routine. The office supply store needed replenishing, which meant buying some aspirin and tampons (Playtex only!). I remember when I stood in front of the tampon rack, amazed at how many there were. I got a variety pack to be safe. I did her errands, and the last thing on the list was to go to her house and feed her dog. My internship’s going well. I just did a bunch of tasks that didn’t require any special skills.
The Great Soaker
One of the most intense internships I had was at a major news station in Belgium, where my boss knew how to push my buttons from day one. The other day, I was covering a protest in Brussels with one of my favorite cameramen and things started getting really out of control right in front of us. Shortly after I got back, my boss told me to go find my cameraman again because she wanted more footage. By that time, the protest had snowballed into something much worse, half the trains in the city were unavailable for public use and police forces started to fire tear gas and water cannons at protesters. I managed to catch the metro on time and the driver was very helpful too. But then I got off the train right as protesters started getting violent. Someone threw a brick at the police officers who were forming a wall around us. As soon as the crowd saw the canisters and heard the sound of a water cannon, they panicked and tried to run away. Inadvertently, many of us inhaled tear gas released by riot police. By that point, I was pretty mad. The rain left me soaking wet, and I had no way of finding my cameraman due to the police blocking my way. I’ve been working from home and it’s just not possible to do anymore. I’m going back to the office instead. When I got back, my boss barely looked at me and asked, “Why did it take you so long? Did you not get the film?”. I spent the rest of the day worrying about how I was going to get my clothes dry and editing footage so I didn’t stand out.
You’re Not Supposed To Say That
“A few days ago, my boss told me he had to attend surgery later on today”. The surgery required him to be unconscious, so his dad was taking him there. Sounds like quite a coincidence. The president ended up being in town and this resulted in the closure of all major roads, which were then rerouted. My boss came off the phone with his dad, looked me in the eye, and asked if I could take him to the hospital. I fully agreed, having to wait for his father at the hospital because I was in a bit of a tricky situation. I didn’t want to leave until the relative arrived in case anything happened. When my boss’s dad came, he introduced us. Feeling extremely awkward, I offered my boss the best wishes I could think of at the moment by telling them, ‘Don’t die!’. The anesthesia must have created a moment of amnesia because he can’t seem to remember what happened, but the image of his now pale face after witnessing it will haunt him forever “as I said to someone before an operation, the one thing you’re not supposed to say will live forever in my mind”. —Jacqueline, 20
When I applied for and was interviewed for my internship at the resort, I was informed I would be working in the Food and Beverage department for 12 weeks, learning to manage while engaging with visitors. As this was a new resort that had only just been opened that year, we were expected to help out wherever possible to help get it up and running. When I first signed up for this job, I had no idea what was in store for me. For my first four weeks in this internship, I had to scrub toilets and bathtubs with a toothbrush. The interns had to clean 465 rooms without running water. We made sure to thoroughly clean every surface we touched – removing any dirt and scuff marks. Cleaners were not allowed to move onto the next room until someone checked it. When something was not approved, we had to clean it again—Machaela, 20.
I had an old job once where my boss would always ask me to buy his groceries for him. One time, he asked me to go out and buy things for an event. I was a little surprised because it had been a while since he’d asked me to do anything like that. Usually, he just asks me to call the delivery service. It was kind of nice that he trusted me with such a big task though and I knew how much it meant. Since the company would not reimburse public transportation fares, It was a nightmare carrying lots of things over $250 worth of stuff. He was also super aggressive and would assign work to me at all hours of the day and night and expect me to get it done immediately. He texted me a reminder to get an errand done by 2 p.m. that day, but prior to that, I advised him that I am on a day off for my high school graduation. Anyway, to be clear this is not a personal assistant job. This is really just a regular internship position. Needless to say, I didn’t get this job for long.” —Anne, 21
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