Thursday, September 11, 2014

How To Survive a Stressful Internship

SOMETIMES, THINGS JUST DON'T WORK OUT QUITE LIKE WE PLAN. This goes across the board, of course, and in the case of internships, it can be rather heartbreaking. I myself have had four internships thus far and have enormously different experiences, ranging from love at first sight, to happy but not perfect, to just meh, to straight up hell. 
Besides the obvious reasons to do internships: 1. getting a job / building your resume / networking; 2. real world learn experience; 3. class credit, Internships are a wonderful way of crossing potential career directions off your list and narrowing your focus. They're also wonderful in helping you figure out what kind of place you want to work in. Because when possible, you want to make sure you're finding the job that has the atmosphere you'd be happy in for a long time. 
So for me, I've worked in marketing, social outreach, digital agency life and now editorial / magazine design. From these, I've learned a couple things about myself: 1. Environment matters to me. (I want fun, and where I feel like I'm part of a team.); 2. Cubicles are my personal hell; 3. I'm happiest when designing print-based materials or any kind of editorial design. 
And for the most part, my internships have been pretty helpful and eye opening. However, that being said, I did have one internship that was pure hell. I was shoved into a cubicle, openly picked on, left out of group things that were talked about right in front of me, ignored, made example of, had my designs ripped up and tossed aside for far - far- more mediocre work and just generally treated as a subpar human. There were times (more often then I'd like to admit) when I left on my lunch break, got in my car, drove half a block and just cried. 
The catch was I needed the money. It was my only paid internship & it paid really well. I also had made a commitment for the entire summer. And I'm one of those people that when I commit to something, I follow through. 
I was at this internship for 3 months so I actually learned a couple things on how to survive a stressful internship that I'd like to share with you. This obviously applies to internships, but can easily be applied to jobs in general. 

Everything is made significantly easier when you have someone you can talk to, someone on your side. Maybe it's another intern or maybe it's someone in a different department. If possible, find that someone. I still don't recommend gossiping or anything like that. But maybe you and your buddy can go on walks during lunch and catch up on non-work stuff. 

If you're at a place where you're getting a 30 min- 1 hr lunch, take it. Go for a walk; go to lunch; get out of the office. Do something fun even! There was a Target really close to my hellish internship and I'd often pop over for a bit of browsing / retail therapy. 

Something I did not do, but honestly should have: talk to someone about how you're being treated. The CEO of the company was a really lovely man who probably would have stepped in had I asked him to. I dreaded the thought of everyone else feeling like they'd won somehow by getting to me, which was why I never said anything. But I should never have let those people get away with it. They were bullies, straight up & it is NEVER ok to treat someone like they did, especially as an intern! Damn my pride, though.

I did a lot of breathing exercises at my desk. Every time I'd find out that something I'd been working on for weeks had been tossed aside (especially for subpar work) I was angry. Really angry. But when you give yourself a few minutes to breathe and try and clear your mind, it really does help. 

Especially if you're not taking this internship for school credit. This one, for me, just so happened to not be for credit, so I was quite lucky in that. However, I'm sure if it had been for credit, I could have gone to my advisor for help. As it was, eventually it just became too much for me. With three days left of my internship, I walked out.
Because at the end of the day, there was absolutely no reason for them to be treating me that way & for me to continue to sit there and be someone else's emotional and verbal punching bag. Yes, I could totally have stuck it out and finished those three days. But for me, those three days gave me a chance to be with my family and take some much needed time to lick my wounds and unwind. And frankly, it was my giving them the middle finger on my way out. 

Sometimes, people are jerks, work is hard & sh*t is just stressful. I hope you never have to deal with something like that, but if you do find yourself in a stressful internship (or job), please remember you're beautiful, talented and way-- WAY too awesome for that crap. "This too shall pass" right? Right. 
Have you had a stressful internship or job experience you'd like to share? Or any tips on how you survived it? We'd love to hear them all! xx


  1. I had a rubbish internship, but thankfully it was a very short one (like a month), however, it's the thing that people ask me about most in interviews, etc, so it's always a good learning experience, even if it is stressful! Great post (:

  2. As your Mother, I hate to read this. I knew it was happening, but not the part about you crying on your lunch breaks. Which of course, just breaks my heart and makes me wish I could have a lengthy conversation with those....women. They should be ashamed of themselves.
    I am glad though, that you're strong, and that you have been able to learn several things about yourself and the job market through your internships.


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