Happy are the interns who go on coffee runs for their boss, right?
It’s helpful for new interns to think that it will somehow get them further in a chosen career path by serving as the compliant gophers of the workplace. We are told throughout our entire college career the importance of landing an internship and building up your resume bullet points. The job market is competitive, and sometimes settling for ANYTHING is better than nothing, but is it really beneficial to have “coffee bitch” on your resume?
The eager nature of new interns is seen as a prize to those souls who don’t want to do the grit work. Sure, coffee runs and typing pointless documents for other employees may get you in their corner, but it turns this “rite of passage” from student to business professional into nothing more than a place where minions gather.
At this point, you’re probably just grateful for the opportunity regardless of how many caramel macchiato beverages you have run for your boss. Building expertise in your field requires a meaningful intern experience, so here are some ways to turn your painful minion-ship into something worth mentioning to a future employer.
1. Know Your Beef
We know. You’re not getting paid, and the annoying tasks that no one else wants to do have suddenly fallen on your shoulders. Know exactly what you don’t like about your internship, and use that to your advantage. Taking those little tasks and making them part of the experience will look better on a resume than dipping out just because you don’t want to run coffee. Climbing the ladder happens in the real world too.
2. Be humble
Sure, you might be studying every waking detail of business in your college classes, but here’s the thing: no one likes an intern (or new employee for that matter) whose entitlement is stronger than your great aunt’s perfume. Part of going through an internship is to learn the system from more experienced hands. You might think you’re a superstar in this department, but chances are you have a lot to learn. You might be hanging out in the cubicle of an employee who started off by running coffees too. Start small, and take the little steps away from self-entitlement. Being thankful for the opportunity will look a lot better than being a know-it-all.
3. But be confident
When the time does come for you to do something other than take coffee orders from the office, jump right in and give it all you’ve got as if your life depended on it. Now would be the time to use your existing high and mighty skills alongside new ones. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and avoid the timid “I’m new” character; it’s a part of learning. Your willingness to even try will likely stand out to other employees.
4. Be observant
Generally, interns are the shadows to full-time employees in the workplace. They’re annoying, they’re unpaid, and they’re getting in the way of precious time. Interns: this is expected. You’re learning how the workplace runs. Ask questions, being nosy, take notes, and watch carefully. Even the smallest details of a job can make you or break you in the workplace.
5. Go above and beyond
Did you finish typing those documents back in? Ask for more work. Even if employees are getting paid salary and you aren’t, that doesn’t mean to leave idle time as is. Use every minute as an intern to take on new projects (yes, even maintaining your coffee bitch role). Your work load as an intern might seem light, but waiting around doing nothing isn’t going to help you out either. Ask the people around you if they need help with other work. Seek out your supervisor, and become the irreplaceable minion. You’ll thank yourself later when that same supervisor offers you a job.
6. Graduate from just getting coffee to embracing the coffee
Sure, you might be seen as the coffee bitch of the office. You’re probably tired of the errand, but it’s a rite of passage for most interns. Use this as an opportunity to network with the people drinking the coffee. Remember names and faces. Remember who likes their coffee black and who takes cinnamon creamer. Employees chat around coffee and other beverages. (Come on, haven’t you seen The Office?) Use this as a chance to learn what those employees do, and make it a conversation piece. You’ll probably learn more this way than just dropping coffee off at their desk.
There’s a lot of pressure on interns. Not only do you have to take on a completely new environment for only two to three months, but you have to please that employer regardless of the circumstances if you want the credit for it and the full-time offer. Regardless of all of the crappy ways you can look at this internship, remember the future benefit behind it. Even if you feel that you didn’t have a good experience at the end of it all, you have seen the workplace and the faces behind it. You’ve had the chance to make connections with people you can apply with in the future. You have something to put on your resume for future employers. And you now know every Starbucks drink in the book. I consider that a win.