We pursue internships to benefit and enrich our future careers. However, we can’t guarantee its success until we actually begin. Most internships are great tools for learning about your hopeful field and forming connections with people already there. Other internships may turn out to not have as professional or positive an environment. I’ll use my experience to give you some tips on how to remain professional yourself if this is the case:
This past summer, I interned at a recording studio complex for post- production music and voice-over work in commercials, television and feature films. I was ecstatic, as I’m very interested in both film and music, so I was excited to work with both. Now, I wasn’t expecting to get in there and immediately be able to have my voice heard. In my application and interview process, it was advertised to me as one “work day” equaling one “shadow day”, combining to a twice a week schedule, 8am-5pm. The “work day” would consist of the stereotypical intern jobs– opening/ cleaning the studios, getting coffee, cleaning and maintaining the kitchen and going on lunch runs (the company’s personal free Postmates service, essentially). The “shadow day” is earned because I would get to sit in and shadow one of the engineers– if they condoned it– as they held a session with clients. Sounded good to me!
However, once I began working in the facility, I quickly realized it was not the lively and inclusive environment I had thought. First off, I was one of the only females working there. Also, I was a few years younger than everyone else there– including other interns. Can you see where I am going with this?
Without getting into details, let’s say the largely middle-aged male staff there took advantage of these factors and tended to give me a bit of a hard time. Let me explicitly say, nothing ever directly abusive or violating happened to me there. Although, this does happen rarely. If it happens to you, that is a much larger issue than simply an unprofessional environment, and you should not be afraid to report it immediately. Now, I’ll get into the tips on how I held my composure.
This is just Your Foundation
Something that I would repeat to myself is how this internship was simply a starting point for me, while it was another person’s livelihood. Some people may be jealous of you for that, and it could affect their attitude towards you. Let it roll off your shoulders, as when you’re onto better things in the fall, they’ll be in the same spot.
They Might Not Expect You Can Succeed
You’d think that the person who hired you did so because they believe you’ll do your job well. This is true, but you may get a boss who likes to stretch that. Once, instead of getting to sit in on my shadow day, I was given a list of very random sounds and an audio recorder I had never used and was told to walk around Boston and collect these sounds for their database. My boss told me, “I know how to use this (the recorder) but I am not going to tell you!”
Part of me wanted to give the gizmo right back to him, but that would also exhibit defeat. Instead, I took it with a smile, looked up some YouTube videos in the lobby of the building and figured out how to use the thing. Luckily, I had learned in my Foundations VMA class how to log and organize takes, so I gathered almost every sound on the list. When I returned, I witnessed my boss playback one of my takes with a smile as I packed up to leave, but did not laugh once he heard me labeling the take accurately.
Some Tasks Might Make Your Eyes Roll
If you’ve landed in a Devil Wears Prada type of internship, you may get asked to complete some tasks that seem pretty made- up. I was asked before to dust the hairspray they kept in the bathroom– and then asked to dust it again an hour later. Sometimes, employers are simply evaluating if you can do the work before they give you a higher status. Other times, they may be doing it to fuel their own ego, which you do not deserve. In this case, personally evaluate if the internship opportunities outweigh the negative components of it. If you feel as though you are being bullied each day you come in, you might consider speaking to someone about that experience.
Do NOT Let Anyone Undermine your Identity
Though there was sometimes a certain tone/ diction used due to my age or gender, no one there ever outwardly undermined be due to any form of my identity and most people there were quite nice. Unfortunately, especially in the entertainment industry, this is not always the case. If you are ever in a situation where a figure of authority, or even another employee, undermines you due to who you are, that is not a healthy environment and should be spoken out about. It is 2018; if one internship is too narrow-minded to respect you, another company surely will.
At the Career Development Center, we do all that we can to make sure the internships you apply for are credible and a safe environment. The internships posted on Handshake and Careerbuzz have been approved by our staff before they are advertised to you. However, if something does not go as planned, do not hesitate to make an appointment and ask for our opinion or help. If you do not feel comfortable in an internship situation, definitely make a conversation about it– our help does not end once you’ve got the job.
You can schedule an appointment directly from your Handshake account and safely talk about anything you need, and the possible next steps. We’ve got your back.