No one told me when I started the internship of my dreams just how terrifying it’d be. The first day I went into the office—a trendy space in the arts district with a community fridge stocked with La Croix—I immediately felt like I didn’t belong. It was a creative, women-focused organization, where everyone I encountered seemed to be smarter than me. I remember walking in and having my first assignment thrown at me almost before I could even sit down. I texted my friends frantically as I began working. “I don’t know what I’m doing!” I cried helplessly through my phone screen.
The first couple of weeks at my internship left me feeling exactly the same—incompetent and unworthy. Yet, I couldn’t deny that the fact that I’d gotten the internship in the first place was a testament to my qualifications. I decided to stop moping around, and to use my creative capacities to do my absolute best in this new and intimidating position.
I began listening to podcasts on my morning commute as a way to keep myself educated on topics pertaining to the organization. I asked my supervisors questions as often as I could, not letting my fear of sounding “incompetent” get in the way of my performance on the job. I also began to share my ideas more often, which proved successful when my co-workers decided to use them. I began to take ownership of my position by channeling my intimidation into hard work. I realized that not only did I have a seat at the table, but I belonged there.
In addition, as I began implementing these practices at my internship, I was able to relax into myself and began to develop friendships with my co-workers. I found myself grabbing coffee with a co-worker before work or taking lunch breaks with them. These were women who, at the start of the internship, intimated me with their various creative talents. Yet, as I focused more on the value of what I personally bring to the table, I became more comfortable with and open to learning from these women. They became my creative partners in crime and my friends.
Because I’d built this kind of relationship with my co-workers and supervisors, I felt safe enough to express various concerns throughout my time there. I was able to speak up for myself, because I knew that my supervisors, more than anything, wanted me to have the best experience possible with the company. I was able to bring up certain issues such as cutting down on hours and the possibility of receiving compensation without fear. I was able to be honest about what I wanted out of the internship, and my supervisors were always open to accommodating me.
If there’s anything I learned during my time with this organization, it’s that I always have more to offer than I think. I learned to never short-change myself and that there is nothing wrong with entering a workplace with confidence. At the same time, it’s important to have the humility to be able to ask questions in order to perform well on the job. The purpose of an internship is to find out how you function in certain spaces and to cultivate positive work practices. Though you might make many mistakes along the way, the experience of working with various companies as an intern will give the kind of experience necessary before entering the workplace after graduation. I am grateful for my internship experience because it provided me with a knowledge that I’ll be able to take with me into any job from now on. The moral of the story is, if something scared you, it’s probably a good thing. It’s the scary things that lead us into the kind of growth needed to become the working women God created us to be.