By Emma Buchman
After a month of waiting, everyone in the Hansard Scholars Programme has officially started their internships. While I haven’t spent enough time in the office to tell you how to survive an internship entirely, I can tell you how to survive the first two weeks, and that could make all the difference.
Hansard assigned me to work as an intern to Diane Abbott, a member of the House of Commons who was recently promoted to shadow minister for International Development. She works in the Portcullis House across the street from the Palace of Westminster, which is where the chambers for the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of Parliament, are located. An internship like this comes with a lot of perks. It always feels cool when you’re told that you get to sit in on a confidential meeting or when you see your boss in person and then two hours later they’re on T.V. While this isn’t the experience that every internship provides, all of them will have a way of making you feel like you’ve finally been incorporated into the working world and that you can be recognized for your work.
That being said, there are a lot of scary factors to an internship, as is to be expected. It’s a little daunting, for example, when you go through your internship orientation packet and it says, “Please allow 20 minutes to go through security.” It’s even more daunting when you actually arrive at security, and you feel as though the officers are looking for a reason to call you suspicious, all the while trying to think of how to explain to them that yes, you do in fact work there, you just don’t have your security pass yet.
If you’re interning abroad, it gets complicated when you take the cultural differences into account. You have to know how they run their office in ways that might be different from the United States. Even though the United Kingdom’s language is English, there is still a language barrier with different spellings and pronunciations.
Additionally, being an intern means that you’re at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder. At this point, my internship consists mainly of plot points from “The Devil Wears Prada,” except my boss is a lot nicer. It’s not the most exciting or glamorous work, just answering phones, opening letters, and passing on calls. It seems a little tedious and unnecessary at times, but I like to think back on something my roommate said: “The way I think about it is, who’s going to do it if we don’t?”
So here is some advice that I can give on surviving your first few weeks in an internship whether it is abroad or in your backyard. Firstly, don’t worry if you feel like all you are doing is scut work. If it wasn’t important, they probably wouldn’t have you doing it. If it turns out that the work was unimportant all along, just remember that it’s extra brownie points for your resumé. Second, look confident and people will assume you belong. Third and most importantly, be yourself with your coworkers. If you have a loud personality then obviously you might have to tone it down in order to be polite to your colleagues, but always take the opportunity to let the best parts of your personality show. With me, for instance, I take pride in my sense of humor. One of my coworkers has a similar sense of humor to me, and because I was able to play off of his jokes, we have hit it off quite well. When you act like yourself, you feel better in whatever environment you’re in, plain and simple. All of this may sound like the generic mumbo jumbo you hear all the time, but this advice really works. Trust me.
I don’t know what the future holds. I may blow this entire thing by spilling coffee on my boss’ shirt or accidently forwarding a spam e-mail to a supervisor. However, I am confident that my actions over these two weeks have put me in the best position to succeed in this internship and in this program as a whole. Even if it all falls apart tomorrow, I will always have this foundation to look back on and build off of.