The first week of my last term in college, I was frantically looking for a job or internship to fill a gap in my schedule. I knew at the minimal, I needed to have some type of internship story to tell future employers. I wanted to work in advertising or marketing, and found an unpaid internship on Craigslist that looked interesting. I decided to apply, and a phone call and interview later I started an unpaid internship at a small marketing company.
When I say small, I mean really damn small. I was basically working for one woman, and her office was based out of her house. To make matters worse, I had to drive almost 40 minutes each way to get there. She had just recently started her company and didn’t really even have a plan for interns. Despite that, she brought two more on after me.
I worked there two days a week, and because she wasn’t quite sure how to provide the interns with tasks, I would spend large portions of the day just waiting around. Early on I contemplated quitting; I really felt like I was wasting a lot of my time, and that the experience wasn’t going to help me even a little bit. I also did not particularly like working for this women, and felt that she didn’t respect me enough to be worthy of my time. In fact, on the first day she basically chewed me out for not having the experience necessary to succeed at her company. I almost walked out right there; this was for a non-paid position, and I told her from the beginning all my experience was academic.
I decided to stick it out, since it was just for the summer. Despite having huge “down” periods, I was learning a little bit and getting some experience in online marketing, something I didn’t know much about. I even started to gain an interest in it, which was actually pretty surprising to me. I also made a concerted effort to be positive while I was there, and not snap back at my boss when she made comments I didn’t feel were appropriate. We received some informal presentations from friends she knew in the industry, and I made it a point to seem very interested in what these people had to say.
About two weeks in, one of these people who gave a presentation contacted my boss, asking if she knew anyone that was looking for a job. Because I came across as interested during this presentation, and since I remained in a positive mood throughout the internship, my boss suggested me. I got a part-time job working for one of her friends, and I ended the internship. In the end, this job didn’t work out, and I was let go due to budget constraints. I had just graduated at this point, and was looking for a full-time job anyway. As I mentioned, I really didn’t do a whole lot at the internship. But overall, I did receive some experience, and I was able to translate all of that very well to my resume. If you looked at my resume you wouldn’t know that this was an unpaid internship which was a little bit sketchy.
This new, “professional” addition to my resume got me a call-back for a position at a digital marketing company that I applied for. I received an interview, and because of the experience and knowledge I gained during the internship (even though it wasn’t the perfect situation), I was able to talk intelligently about digital marketing and advertising. This interview turned into a second interview, and that turned into a very good job at a prestigious digital marketing and advertising company. The internship story I had to tell actually paid off.
So this unpaid internship story gave me experience, allowed me to build my resume, provided me with knowledge I didn’t previously have, gave me a few connections, led me to a part time job (which didn’t last), which then led me to a great paying full-time job at a prestigious company and in a segment of marketing and advertising I didn’t previously have an interest in before this internship. I never would have thought any of that was going to happen on that first day when I almost walked out.