Students share the weirdest things that have happened to them on internships
‘My boss wrote me a shopping list every day’
No matter which way you look at it, internships are terrible, soulless things. For anywhere between a week and a fortnight you’re sat in an office with people twice your age trying desperately to do anything useful that you can one day brag about in a cover letter. The classic stereotype is that interns spend their days photocopying and making the teas, but you’re honestly lucky if you’re kept that engaged. If you’re not bored, you’ll be lumped with bizarre and sometimes purposefully time-wasting tasks designed to keep you out of the way.
Now that it’s grad season and your mates are all posting frantically on LinkedIn about what an interesting time they had as an #intern at their dad’s mate’s law firm, we asked students for their weirdest and worst stories of interning at companies. Names have been changed to protect their precious CVs.
‘She’d write me shopping lists and make me pay for it myself’
I did an internship with a woman in her 70s who used to have a really successful career in the art business – the internship was one-to-one so I was the only person there with her, working from her home. Every morning when I got there she’d make me wash up her plates and cutlery from her breakfast as the first task and all round just expected me to support her financially. She’d write me shopping lists for food to buy to bring to hers in the morning and never gave me the money back. Once she even asked me to fill up the gas in her car.
She asked me one week if I knew how to ride a bike and I said yes of course, not realising that I’d just accidentally signed up for a bicycle tour with her and ended up spending five hours on a broken, barely functioning bicycle and riding over 50km (she had an electronic one). I have really bad hay fever and could barely see because my eyes were swollen so badly so ended up leaking from all crevices of my body the entire tour and shedding a couple of tears because I was so uncomfortable and couldn’t believe that was my life.
She’d also ring me after I’d leave work and invite herself round to the flat I was staying at a couple of evenings on work nights and expected me to cook her dinner!!!! I thought of ending the internship early (I’d committed to four weeks). I genuinely didn’t think I could hack it and was so scared of how she’d react when I told her, so I made a plan with my parents to pack up all my shit and take a flight out of Berlin to go home ASAP without telling her. Oh also to top it off of course it was unpaid.
‘My boss kept taking photos of me and putting them on Insta’
I was doing this internship for a charity, helping them gain a social media presence. My boss didn’t tell me anything specific that he wanted doing so I just kinda had to guess but none of it was what he wanted but he also never told me what he wanted. Then it gets weird.
Basically when we had meetings or went to charity things he’d get photos of me and him, but he’d post them on his Insta (that I was supposed to be running) all the time. Then he started bombarding me with messages trying to meet me again, constantly. I told the uni I didn’t want to do it anymore and he emailed me this weird message as if it was his decision.
‘I didn’t have a chair or windows’
So all fashion internships are bad like that’s just an accepted fact, but when I did a week at a national newspaper the fashion cupboard was my office for the week and I spent most of it on the floor of this cupboard without a chair or windows in the room, sorting out a mountain of clothes that honestly looked like a sweatshop. Oh and was obvs unpaid.
‘My manager gave me loads of deadlines then handed in her notice’
It was my first internship in a bank, so I had next to no clue what I was doing. On the first day my line manager gave me a list of all her responsibilities and some pretty heavy deadlines which I might ‘help’ with. The next day she hands in her notice and proceeds to not come into work apart from every so often to ask how I was doing with those report deadlines which I then had to blindly stumble through alone (pretty sure I cried most days). Well after the report was done (about a month in) I rotated to an easier department, so it wasn’t too bad. I mean for the CV it sounds like I single handedly carried the bank of course.
‘I spent two days wrapping fake presents for Christmas’
It was on my placement year with Uni and I was at a car dealership. I spent two working days wrapping empty boxes for under our work Christmas tree and to put around the office. Another time my manager tasked me with walking through our three car parks and writing down the make and reg of all the cars (there were about 150) and to this day I have no clue why, because we had a system that checks all the cars in. I mean, I still included on my CV that I worked there but just made it sound 10 times better than it actually was – tryna make it sound good was like trying to polish a shit.
‘I was essentially finding ways around the law’
It was a property startup in London that was pretty unethical. Their business model was to service people who would rent out their homes and provide hotel-like customer service on behalf of the owners to their guests, such as changing bed sheets, greeting guests, pricing their airbnbs competitively, managing bookings etc.
My role changed from being a pricing analyst to then being an operations manager. I would look at properties the company could buy, I would have to do this under an alias so the council wouldn’t cotton who was buying these year-long contracts at various properties in London. Then we would furnish them and rent them out, pocketing the profit. It essentially priced out people in the local area because short term holiday renting is a lot more profitable in central London than renting it out to long term tenants. There were laws against this but I would have to essentially find ways around it since the law wasn’t enforced very well.
Related stories recommended by this writer: