Starting from the bottom: the reality of internships

By Mary Menzemer

Sylvia Plath in “The Bell Jar” writes about a heroine named Esther Greenwood who had the opportunity to have the internship idealists like myself often dream about.

She lives in a big city, writes and edits articles for a fashion magazine, constantly interviews famous writers (back when fashion magazines had some literary merit), attends ritzy parties and comes into contact with people she never would have in her quiet, sleepy neighborhood.

She describes herself as “not being good at anything but winning scholarships and prizes,” and while this is what leads her to have the opportunity of internship, it’s still not enough, and it gradually leads to her admittance into an insane asylum.

While this is one (morbid) facet of a “big city, high living” internship, the opposite is also just as likely to occur. For example, examine Andie Sachs, the intelligent, unfashionable and naïve woman of Northwestern University in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

This is a more modern illustration, in which she comes to New York to be a journalist, and instead goes on Starbucks runs for her glamour-obsessed bosses and picks up their dry cleaning.

How dazzling. Though the grunt work and ass-kissing was not very pretty, Andie’s high-strung boss, Miranda, gives her a referral that lands her dream job.

A valuable lesson can be learned from these two cases. Both women were well-rounded and well-versed in their fields, but the actual meat of their internships was completely different, and they took two opposite paths after they were over.

You could learn multitudes working for a small firm in the middle of nowhere, but if you don’t know anyone who can pull some strings for you, you’ll get nowhere. In any industry, it’s all about who you know and who can get you the furthest in your career.

This is both a sad and harsh reality, but everyone starts at the bottom at one point in time. This does not go to say that there is only one way to success; of course there are other means to climb the ladder to glory, but there are a few key things to keep in mind while applying for or doing an internship: keep your head, observe much and don’t sell yourself short.