I graduated from art school for the first time in the early 2000’s. Sadly, it was during the height of the recession in Los Angeles. Interior design firms weren’t hiring full time, let alone part time— but they were hiring interns. I spent the next 2 years becoming a professional intern. I learned a lot, I cried a lot, and I grew a lot— and here are just a few things I learned along the way.
1. There are no thank yous, get over it. The sooner you accept this the better.
2. Learn when your boss wants a diet coke or coffee, before they do. This skill comes in very handy around 3pm.
3. Coffee runs. Use them to your advantage, that’s your me time.
4. When things are thrown at you, don’t flitch. It just shows weakness. Instead ignore, keep working, and make no eye contact... but really.
PRO TIP: I swear by this. If you give them nothing to react to, they’ll get confused and stop—forgetting why they were even mad in the first place.
5. Wear black and accessorize to look like you have money. You’re an intern with 20 bucks to your name, but sadly you can’t look like an intern when you’re with clients. It’s a never-ending cycle of fashion confusion.
6. Whatever you do, don’t answer your phone after 11pm. I repeat, don’t answer your phone. Nothing can be solved after midnight, and creating boundaries are very crucial as an intern.
7. Sometimes you are a dog walker, kid wrangler, and a professional suitcase packer. Listen… it sucks, but this keeps you humble in the future.
PRO TIP: When you do PA tasks you always walk away with a great story.
9. 80% percent of what happens to you as an intern would make a HR person squirm. Learn from the good and the bad. Treat people how you want to be treated—because someday you will be the boss, with an intern.
10. Be helpful, show your worth, but don’t jump at every single thing. It’s called the curse of competence. Just because you’re a wiz at excel and creating PO’s doesn’t mean you should be the one cutting checks to vendors.
Pro Tip: You’re at this internship to gain skills, not just to fill in where they need help. In the end this will pigeonhole you. Then 30 years later you’re still there running the finance department…. when you went to school for Interior Design.
11. Clients. Make them like you, create a relationship. You never know who they know, or when or where you might see them again. You’re allowed to network, just do it discreetly.
12. Try to avoid having to drive your boss’s car. No reason other than, it’s just really stressful.
13. Everything will be your fault, and in those moment’s sometimes it’s better to be seen and not heard. I learned this this the hard way a handful of times. Stay patient, 8 out of 10 times your boss will take credit for the mistake and you’ll all just move on like it never happened.
14. Karmas a bitch and will always come full circle. So, your boss will get theirs. Hopefully you can watch it all go down on a Bravo show, like I got to.
15: Don’t work every day of the week, make them miss you. That’s how I got my paid job sooner. “sorry, gas is too expensive to come in everyday anymore”.
16. They can always pay you. They just want to see how much they can get from you for free. Always know your worth, and when to leave.
17. Nap in your car. Cry in your car. Hide in your car. Trust me.
18. Accept your caffeine addiction now. It’s just easier to know this upfront.
Pro Tip: A Tall Cappuccino has the same amount of caffeine as a Grande cappuccino—but the tall is cheaper ;)
19. No day will be the same, but that’s what will prepare you the future. Just know you’re earning your intern badge, and once you’ve conquered the being everything for everyone you’ll be amazed how nothing will faze you in the future. Everything is cake, after you’ve been an intern.
20. You will be glad you did this. Just like 15 years later though.