Thursday, July 11, 2013

How To Pick Yourself Up Off The Floor After Making A Big Mistake

Guess what happened after my long-winded rally cry for the benefits of freelancing last week? I met with that editor from the fashion blog and we laughed, swapped stories, drank water, and connected on all sorts of levels and then the bomb dropped: All their freelancers are unpaid.

Story of our lives, right? I mean, I’m definitely still taking the job anyways, but I guess money doesn’t start raining down once you upgrade from “intern” to “freelancer.” Oh well, I live and I learn.

But that is not the point of this post. The point of this post is that I’ve made some TERRIBLE mistakes at all of my internships and since we’re all rounding the halfway mark in the summer, that usually means the first (or, who am I kidding, the first ten) big uh-oh mistakes have happened at our prestigious places of work.

There are different levels to these transgressions. There’s the funny type, which aren’t so bad. Example: A girl at one of my fashion closet internships took a $40 pedi-cab ride back to the office after one of her first messenger runs because she was having trouble hailing a taxi.

Then there’s the are-they-going-to-fire-me type of mistakes. Recently, I reported on a fancy, celebrity-filled panel for a post at my internship, and I mis-quoted the founder of one of the brands represented. There’s nothing like getting a ‘Hey! You messed up!’ email from the PR director of the well-recognized women’s magazine that hosted the event at 9:30 pm on the day the post was published.

Once my heart started beating again, I emailed my editor and probably gave the best written impression of somebody in tears that she’s ever seen. She emailed me back the next morning, comforting my ruined self-esteem and telling me that my life was not over.  After thanking me for alerting her, she recommended hand-writing notes to both the PR director of the magazine and the PR director of the mis-quoted brand, apologizing for my mistake. (I later found out that the PR director of the brand had angry-emailed my editor as well, and that email had way more capital letters and exclamation points then the one that I had received).

I dropped $20 on Crane & Co. paper and arduously hand-wrote the apology letters. A week later, the PR director from the brand emailed my editor, thanking me for the note and telling her that I was “one classy gal!” Crisis over, thank goodness.

But it got me thinking, stuff like this happens all the time. Not everybody goes so far as to blatantly mis-quote a super important industry professional, but even the little things can get under our skin if we let it. Things like: Why didn’t I get picked to go to that event tonight? Why does she keep asking me to do all the transcribing? Do I really have to go get coffee AGAIN?

It can open the floodgates to a ton of self-deprecating thoughts and general bad attitude towards work. And, make no mistake, that attitude shows no matter how well you try to hide it.

In honor of my painfully embarrassing mis-quote, I thought I’d put together a handy little how to for bouncing back when things don’t always go as planned. Sadly, I am not a psychologist and I also didn’t consult anybody remotely professional on the contents of this list, it’s just really a short list of stuff that helps me when I feel like the worst intern on the planet.

Here goes:

1.     You are an intern. Remember when that email of acceptance finally came and you felt so validated? If your current self could go back and tell your past self about how it’s harder than you anticipated and sometimes you think about quitting, your past self would probably be pretty disappointed in your lack of chutzpah. I just tell myself, pick your head up Zöe*, at least you’ve got an internship. That always seems to help.

2.     It is not a competition. Seriously, when I spent too much time comparing myself to the other interns who I’ve worked with, it went downhill fast. Every little edit that was done on my posts was translated in my mind as unnnghh my writing is terrible! And every time I found out another intern was sent to cover an event that I didn’t know about, it was translated in my mind as unnnghh my editor thinks I’m a terrible writer! All of sudden, I found myself at a point where, according to my twisted logic, nobody, not even me, liked my work.

3.     Buy yourself a brownie. Whole Foods makes these great Oreo Explosion ones. Heat it up in the microwave when you get home, and then just focus on how great it tastes. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our work—either what happened, or what’s going to happen—that we forget to just breathe. Living in the present is one of the hardest things to do, yet it’s the most necessary for our well-being. As cliché as it sounds, every one makes mistakes. Don’t sell yourself short because you tripped up a couple times.

Since you’ve probably heard all of those tips before (they’re pretty generic, but they do work!) I’m going to tack on a bonus one. Sometimes, no matter how many brownies you eat, you still can see that you really aren’t the best intern on the team. It happened to me at my fashion closet internship(s). I just want to say that that’s perfectly normal.  The point of interning is to realize where you fit in this crazy industry, and if you don’t perform as well in one area, it’s because your best fit is still waiting to be discovered. Don’t sell yourself short just because you aren’t the best intern in a career path that isn’t the right fit for you anyways.

Have any cringe-worthy intern mistake stories you want to share? Or, does another point need to be added to my list? Let’s talk about it!

Until next week (or until someone comments),

Ed’s Entertainment Intern

*Obviously, that's not my name.

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