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Everyone knows that an internship is one of the best ways to gain experience and enter the market, regardless of the area you choose. However, my focus here is to reflect on another issue: if you are in a moment of change (in life or career), is it worth interning even when you already have experience?
Ironically, back in Brazil I never interned and before moving to London, I managed a team of 3 trainees. Nevertheless, during my MA I thought it would be a great way to open doors in the market (also, having classes three times a week prevented me from working full time). So I went back several houses in the game, but faced being an intern for the first time in my life with an open heart.
In terms of technical learning, the two initial experiences didn’t add much, but were useful to observe the local work pace and ethics, plus giving points to my CV. Then, my third experience made me rethink everything. I am totally against unpaid internships, but accepted it because it would be just for two weeks, working in an area that quite interests me. Also, I got the position in a very informal way, through an exchange of e-mails, and was proud of my networking efforts. I thought I would at least make new contacts and gain some insights from the sector. Little did I know.
As in a “Devil Wears Prada” moment, what I did, basically, was serving coffee and tea, buying lunch for the team, going to the post office, putting labels on products and boxing them. The 2 weeks turned into only 4 long days, counting the minutes to leave. I definitely didn’t need this.
The bad experience made me reflect on some cultural differences. Because of Brazil’s colonial heritage, tasks that don’t require qualification are usually made by an office boy, a secretary or a maid. To my understanding, interns, even in the mess that is the fashion market over there, perform basic tasks, but linked to their skills and areas of study. Here, in the rest of Europe and the US is not like this. An intern is a kind of “jack of all trades”. It doesn’t matter if you have previous experience or a master’s degree. Of course, you can perform tasks related to your expertise (in my first experiences I did things related to marketing and social media), but, overall, be prepared for having multiple roles.
For me, the learned lesson was to seriously evaluate each opportunity and be aware that some of them can indeed be a waste of time. There is nothing wrong in refusing them or to give up halfway, if they don’t lead you anywhere. To take a few steps back and then forge ahead is part of the game. The important thing is to keep focusing on the finish line! 😉
In the end, I felt even more motivated to follow my entrepreneurship plans, a subject that I will detail in one of the next posts!