Career Key

Author: Career Key's President and CEO, Juliet Wehr Jones, GCDF, J.D.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

My First Internship Day From Heck

I recently came across an essay I wrote for a college course about my first real job - an internship with a small newspaper in Maine. Given my recent post about the value of internships, I thought I should share a crazy first day moment from my first internship. And the newspaper shall remain nameless to protect their reputation from me...

On my first day of my first real job as an intern/desktop publishing assistant, I was asked by my publisher boss to take a load of scrap lumber to the town dump. Yes, an open pit of stinky garbage. He magnanimously gave me the keys to the company 20 yr old Impala wagon (think Gremlin wagon but flatter) and we loaded it up practically to the ceiling with some 2x4s. Having never driven a car other than our family 1978 VW bus, I had never experienced power brakes.

On the final curve to the dump, I began to brake - only to realize that brake in this car meant touch the pedal slightly and BRAKE! And in slow motion, I screeched to a halt in the middle of the turn and watched 2x4s slide into the windshield forming a spiderweb of glass. Being an eventual Princeton graduate, I had not stacked lumber behind my head so I was physically fine. But mentally I was not fine. At 17 years old, I was screwing up royally in my first job on the very first day. What a confidence killer! And this was a small town so there was no way I could hide my stupidity for long.

So in tears, after unloading the lumber (the windshield was still driveable), I returned to the office, fearing the worst - getting fired. But no, something worse would happen. My boss, a notorious cheapskate, came out and looked at the car and said, "if you were going to wreck the car, couldn't you have at least totaled it so insurance would pay for it?" I was relieved/horrified/disbelieving at his reaction. And later we all laughed.

There were other unpleasant tasks ahead in my future in this job, but they were doable when balanced with the higher-skilled responsibility I was later given.

And still later, my boss wrote me a wonderful recommendation for college and to this day, I continue to use the desktop publishing skills I learned from that job. I also learned about other menial tasks, sticking clip art on straight, and what it was like to work with great people.

I did not take the job because I knew for sure I wanted to go into newspaper production. I applied for the job because I had computer skills, enjoyed creative pursuits, and wanted to find out what it was like to work for someone. I was just lucky I kept the job after that first day; the funny thing is, my boss fixed that windshield and I saw it driving around for at least another 10 years. Do you have any funny internship experiences to share?

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