I am a compulsive intern.
It’s like a reflex: the moment I find myself with an ounce of spare time, I start sending out my resume. I genuinely enjoy getting to completely immerse myself in the culture of my favorite companies. I love the spark of creativity that comes from watching a group of people who are wholly devoted to single vision and get to carry it out on a daily basis. I love the wonderful bunch of weirdos I get to meet, spend copious amounts of time with and—eventually—call friends.
Starting a new job is inherently nerve-wracking because on your first day you are, by definition, the dumbest one there. I used to get debilitatingly nervous upon beginning a new internship. The moments before entering the office were filled with a level of anxiety usually reserved for first dates and crime sprees. Luckily, over the course of four internships and three part-time jobs, I have learned that a few things are always going to be true on your first day:
1. No one is going to know what you’re supposed to be doing.
And that’s okay! Spend your downtime wisely: carefully curate the misshapen office supplies that were left on your desk by its past owner! Kindle a fire using only your legal pad and a nail file! Create a signature cocktail at the office bar, complete with bottle-spinning acrobatics and pyrotechnics! Someone will notice you wandering around the office (or, in the case of the last suggestion, on the street watching firemen storm the building) and point you in the right direction.
2. You will spend most of your time standing around wondering if you are supposed to be somewhere else.
I spent the bulk of my afternoon in the corners of offices while their owners talked on the phone, typed emails, and talked loudly to themselves. I developed a system of small coughs and throat-clearing to ensure that they didn’t forget about me entirely and, consequently, I’m now known around the office as that new blonde girl with the severe case of walking pneumonia.
3.. You will inevitably be relegated to the one desk chair with the wobbly, uneven leg that has long-since been pushed from department to department, only to end up in the communal office space/storage closet reserved for the annual crop of interns.
I am writing to you right now from that very chair.
Knowing these things gives the entire process of sense of familiarity that is comforting in its predictability. I can sit in my dark corner, literally lit only by a single flickering bulb, and refresh my email two dozen times — and I can do it with a confidence that comes from knowing that this is a rite of passage and, also, from the office bar.