I don’t like the word ‘Intern’; I’d prefer to call us something along the lines of ‘Company Observers’ or ‘Spectators of Workplaces,’ for that better describes what we do.
We come in, meet the team, receive a desk and sometimes even a phone number and email address by which we are contactable.
We drink the company coffee, learn by example and if we’re really lucky, we actually contribute rather than merely examine the colour scheme of the office, or the efficiency of their recycling procedures.
The word ‘Intern’ suggests to me that we ‘in turn’ might… make the coffee, get a by-line, be offered a job…? I suppose I should acknowledge the fact ‘intern’ doesn’t stem from the combining of the two above words. Such is life.
As an Intern, you never actually admit to your powerlessness. On speaking to clients or companies over the phone, you confidently lead them into a false sense of security. “My name’s Laura and I work at the ‘insert your company here’”.
Again, you live and breathe as though you were a tax paying, benefits accruing, hard-working, company employee.
It doesn’t matter that, in fact, the only thing you share with your ‘colleagues’ is the fact that you buy your lunch at Waitrose; they use their neat salary, you use your £5 lunch allowance, keen to maintain appearances of grandeur and secretly determined to spend every penny of your essentially free lunch.
When you do get a by-line, it stares back at you from the page, as incredulous as to how it got there as you are.
No matter, it is there for the world (or in some cases a slightly smaller percentile) to see, absorb and ultimately judge. It’s slightly like hanging your undies on the washing line on the day your brother invites all his friends over for a beer and BBQ.
Building up a portfolio of work is, I think, the same as compiling a photo album.
It’s self-absorbing, ego-boosting (like having a great tan line in that photo) and it is that all important proof that you have not simply wiled away the summer watching re-runs of Dawson’s Creek and Hollyoaks.
It’s something to look back on in years to come and show the family. “Here’s what I did that summer after I graduated,” says an older, and more wrinkled you flicking through pages of neat prose and copy.
Hours and hours and hundreds more hours of unpaid work. “That’s great Granny. Can I go on my skateboard now?” Perhaps not quite the reaction you were after.