Years ago, a man came into my classroom and spoke about an internship the local city was offering. He warned us that the pay wasn’t much, but it gave valuable experience. When he announced what the pay was, most of the students wrinkled their noses and chose not to pursue it. Even though it didn’t pay much, I decided to try it because it looked like it would be a worthwhile experience in other ways.
Every day after my last class, Monday through Friday, I drove down to the city to put in my three-hour workday. Working for the city had its benefits, as the man had described. It gave me a firsthand look at how the planning department operated. I learned about several types of permits for building and construction. A neat thing I got to participate in was going to the courthouse to research deeds. I used the word neat loosely, because digging through books and mounds of paper was not nearly as exciting as you might think. However, getting exposure to the courthouse and all that was going on there was interesting.
Any time a building was taken down or added, it was my responsibility to update the map to reflect these changes. It was enjoyable to be a part of something like that. They also knew where every fire hydrant in the city was and you might have guessed, I was a part of that too. Later on, I was informed that they needed my help for the wastewater treatment plant. I was shocked to find out they even knew where most manholes were in the city. I was relieved to find out the task required was measuring and gathering locations on the missing ones, not crawling around in the sewer system smelling doo doo.
Overall, it ended up being a great learning experience. I would gladly repeat, if given the same choice to do it all over again. Sometimes internships get a bad reputation, for good reason. Interns may wonder if their employer brainstormed the most boring, tedious work known to humanity. Typically, the work selected for interns can be tasks that no one else wants to do. In several companies I’ve heard stories from, the assigned task was awful. Given hundreds, if not thousands, of drawings in huge stacks and told to scan in each one, one at a time. It makes me shudder to think about how boring such a task would be.
I do see the inherent value in the end result of that work, especially for the company. The intern’s work had great benefit to those who needed easier access to that data. Many companies are trying to do better at providing more interesting work for interns in order to entice them into working for them. For me, all those years ago, my internship definitely qualified. For that reason, potential interns should not quickly pass up an opportunity because of lower pay. Consider the long-term benefits and the education it will add to your experience. Experience, after all, is a key in the decision-making process when it comes to hiring someone new.