Thursday, June 20, 2013

Starting A New Internship Is Kind Of Like The First Day Of Middle School

The first few weeks of any internship are consistently the most awkward weeks. It’s the first stages of a budding relationship, when you and your editor are figuring out how everything is going to mesh and, by default, the intern always acts 110% excited about everything.

To illustrate, here’s a couple sample gchats from some of my first weeks in the past:

Editor: Hey, can you transcribe this interview for me?
Me: Sure, of course!! That’s no problem at all!

Editor: Hey, when you format this post, don’t forget to tag each person’s name.
Me: OMG! I’m so sorry, I totally thought I did! So sorry, it definitely won’t happen again!!

Editor: Hey, can you do a quick Starbucks run?
Me: Sure! I’d love to! Be right back!!

It’s not pretty. And as an introvert it’s even worse, because I’m forced to break out of my comfort zone of 25-30 words per hour in order to answer fun obligatory questions like: How are you adjusting to NYC? (It’s great. A ginormous rat almost ate me in the subway his morning.) Not like your hometown, huh? (I grew up on a grape farm. So, no.)

I thought this summer was going to be different. Because my entertainment editor and I had already worked together last summer, the relationship was supposed to already be established and I was going to glide right in there and pick up right where we left off.

Eh, not so much.

On my first day, I got to the office 15 minutes early. (Thanks for the wild overestimation, HopStop.) I found her tiny little cubicle, where I discovered that my working space was going to be a small wooden chair squished up against the corner of her cramped desk. Nice and personal.

She shares the cubicle with two other girls who take care of social media for the website. One of them is an exuberantly outgoing personality who took one look at me and, I swear, said “Just so you know, the nicer and quieter you are, the more I’m gonna pick on you.” Then she smiled.

Thankfully, my entertainment editor distracted me at that point with a list of features for the site that she needed written. I got to pick which one I was most interested in, which, admittedly, was a definite benefit to the fact that she already knows my writing. Unless you’re working at a smaller regional mag or a trade publication, it’s very rare that you’ll ever see a byline on the first day.

I got to work on a profile of a country music star. (Quick side note: How did journalists do research before the internet was invented?) By the time lunch rolled around—and that means about 2 p.m., because New Yorkers do not eat lunch before 1:30—I had a draft ready to go. I decided to eat before enduring the nervous sweat that is the editing process, so I pulled out my lunch and asked to take a quick break.

She glanced down at my super cool paper bag setup. “Oh! Did you need to refrigerate that?”

I quickly put a hand over the bag, thankful that she couldn’t see the wilting salad within. “Nah, it’s fine, I didn’t need it,” I said, deciding it’d be better to fake it rather than admit that I just simply didn’t ask for a fridge when I came in, like a normal person. “Maybe in the future though...

“Sure,” she said. “I’ll show you where it is next time.”

I made a quick exit, feeling like an idiot. It wasn’t supposed to start like this, I thought. What happened to skipping over the awkward interactions?
When I got back, I shared the draft with her on a Google Doc (the whole system is built on Google Docs) and she promptly pulled it up on her huge second monitor and started going through it. Have I ever mentioned how uncomfortable I get when people edit my work in front of me? And in this case, not only could I see a blown up version of my draft on her computer, but I also got to follow along on my own screen as her pink cursor pounced on all of my silly grammatical mistakes.

Needless to say, I let out a huge sigh of relief when the day was finally over. It was far from disastrous, but it definitely wasn’t the smooth transition I was hoping for.

Maybe there’s no such thing as a non-awkward first day. Or, maybe I just can’t help but be awkward in new situations. So now I want to know, how are the first weeks of your internship going? Any really awkward first day stories? Or maybe you’re one of those effervescent personalities who don’t know what awkward interactions are. In which case, got any tips for the rest of us?

Until next week,
Ed’s Entertainment Intern

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