Today marks my official graduation from a three year internship program. Some days I truly and whole-heartily believed that this day would never come, and now it has.
For the past three years I have felt really silly telling people that I'm in an intern program. Hello, I'm 26-years old and still an intern. Awesome.
This intern program was a paid, career ladder position and was super intense. We had a too-high-for-me-to-count number of requirements that needed to be met, all focused around the area of logistics and gaining competencies in each of the logistics elements. There are 12, people.
I don't know why, but I think when people hear the word "intern" or "internship" - they automatically associate it with two words. Coffee and copies. I would like to say that I never had to make anyone coffee, and the only time I had to make copies was when I was sending off my travel documents to be approved.
If someone had asked me to make them coffee I probably would have made some snarky remark about how they had legs and were damn capable of doing it themselves. Or something like that.
At times I felt that me being (or rather, me saying I was) an intern was a sort of disclaimer. Almost like, "If I screw up you can't really hold me accountable because I'm just a little intern." Or, "I don't know, I'm just an intern." I never used any of these disclaimer-y excuses, mind you. But I always felt they were there, hanging in the air - at least in the minds of those I was working with. Perhaps in their minds I was less capable because there was "intern" associated with my name.
Lauren Peters, Intern.
Overall, my internship was pretty good. I had a really rough start and certainly had some rough patches within the three years, but the experience I gained and where I am today (or, where I will be effective Monday) is pretty incredible.
I still remember my first day and week of work. It was my second real job out of college, but I had every intention of making it a career. I was upbeat and excited, ready to hit the ground running, and had no idea what to expect.
I immediately felt out of place and insecure for four reasons.
1) I was female (don't worry, I still am), 2) I wasn't an engineer (don't worry, I'm still not), 3) I was young (hmmm, debatable), and 4) I had no prior military/Navy experience.
In the eyes of all my co-workers and peers I felt like those were four giant strikes against me because they were mostly male, engineers, old, and with prior military/Navy experience. I knew from Day #1 that I had to seriously prove my capabilities, and even that wouldn't be enough.
The hardest part (in the beginning) was actually getting noticed and having my team members acknowledge my existence. This sounds ridiculous but it is totally true. For awhile I felt as though I could 1) not come to work or 2) sleep underneath my desk and no one would have cared or noticed.
Luckily, that got better. It just took a lot of time and pestering.
I pretty much made a total transformation. I worked my patooty off to get the respect of my co-workers, bugged the hell out of them with questions, and continued to ask for more, more and more work/responsibility.
Last month I mentioned that upon gradation from the intern program, I would be taking a new job. So today, not only did a end my tenure as an intern, but I ended my time supporting my current working group.
It was and is totally bittersweet. I am so thankful to have gotten the opportunity to go through this intern program, and I am even more thankful to be done with it. No more dragging around the intern connotation with me, and I certainly won't complain about a promotion.
Here's to the next step. No more disclaimers, just responsibility. I'm ready!