3 Things That Will Take You from Intern to Employee
As I graduated high school, the path seemed straight and clear. Go to university, slave away at unpaid internships until you get offered the job at the end of it. Pretty simple right?
But then, things get complicated when the realities of a depleting media industry and the fear of insurmountable competition was not only apparent but taught in our lectures.
Moreover, the trials of intern life are far from secret.
The cyclical entrapment of needing experience for a job that requires experience is becoming the reality for too many millennials.
However, against all odds, I, like many of my peers, got the coveted job at the end of yet another internship.
It's now over a year since the fact - to be more specific, 7 months of part time work while I finished my degree, 5 months of full time/over time work.
With my uni graduation also (finally) behind me, it is a scary thought to think that there is no more end date on the path I'm on now.
Was it really worth the countless hours of unpaid administrative tasks? Was it worth the all-nighters and readings that were never remembered or even done? Should I have just packed up my things and gone travelling, winging it as I went?
But before we descend too far down the existential crisis of careers and our place in life, let us take a moment to look back at the path that was. And there are three things I learnt to let accept before I truly felt that I was no longer an intern, but a full-blown adult, with a job.
3 Things I Learnt When Going from Intern to Employee
1. You can say no
As an intern, you learn to put your hand up for everything. Even the internship itself is a clear show of volunteerism. You're constantly wanting to prove yourself, grab at every opportunity to demonstrate your value or to learn new skills.
Yet, when it comes to employment, your time is suddenly more valuable. You learn quickly that there are just not enough hours in the day to do all that you want to. You become accountable to certain accounts or projects and being eager to put your hand up for other projects may just be impossible.
Sure, initiative and proactiveness is still valued - but you are neither paid enough nor able to squeeze in much more work than the daily grind.
So be strategic. Say yes to things you know you can complete well and efficiently but also say yes to the things that you know will let you grow and develop better relationships in your office. And just say no to some things to free yourself up for your own wellbeing and to pursue the things that will take you further.
2. You don't owe them anything
Any media student enters the workplace without the pretence that this is going to be easy. We know we have to pay our dues. We know we'll be underpaid. We know we'll be stuck with the jobs that no one else wants to do.
And for the most part, I was always happy to do it. Along with that wisdom, we'd also been aware that jobs in the media industry were hard to come by. And so, I was ecstatic to land a good gig straight from my internship and the shininess didn't dull for quite some time. I wanted to go above and beyond. I wanted to prove my worth in whatever way I could.
But it comes a time when you have to realise that it wasn't just luck and generosity that got you to your place. This is from your merit. This is from your work. This is because you have put in the hours - from the countless hours of studying to the even more hours in internships and work. You deserve this. And what's more?
3. You deserve better
I'm sick of the discourse around ungrateful, delusional millennials. We put in the hard yards too. We are working in a unprecedented competitive workforce. All while we're being told that yes, we do deserve more and should be at a much higher level than we are.
Frustration at work or the lack of career progression is the most conflicting thing ever. You find yourself second-guessing whether you just can't hack it in your work environment, in this career, in full-time work itself. You lose self-confidence in your skills and your ambitions; your goals and aspirations seem foolish and utterly unattainable. Along with increasing work and responsibilities but no corresponding compensation for your work, it just, kind of sucks.
But check yourself. It's probably not you.
The past few months have been the greatest test in self-confidence I think I'll ever see. First, you need to know that you deserve the position you have. Second, you need to know you're fucking good at it and you are no longer the green, naive intern but developing in your skills and client relationships to become an integral part of the team. Then, you need to ask for more.
It's not just about waiting for the job at the end of it but now asking for the job after that. It's daring to put yourself forward and acknowledging that you have skills and they should be acknowledged. And if not, it might be about finding a place where they are.