An Intern Explains What Hollywood Gets Wrong About Internships

It's not all coffee runs. (It is a lot of coffee runs, though.)

For many college students, an internship is the first step towards finding out what you actually want to do with your life. It’s the perfect way to gain real-world experience without the pressure of choosing a career, and over the years, internships have become a right of passage. In 2013, Forbes determined that 63 percent of university graduates participated in at least one internship by the time they graduated, which made them more likely to get hired by the same company post-completion.

Despite so many of us starting out as interns, especially in media and the entertainment industry, where paying dues while getting paid nothing is the norm, Hollywood’s vision of internships is completely outdated. From the utter embarrassment endured in Intern (2000), to the exaggerated adventures in The Internship (2013), Hollywood clearly doesn’t have its facts straight.

Luckily, Anne Hathaway’s latest movie, The Intern, is attempting to clear things up while simultaneously standing internships on their heads. The Intern follows a 70-year old divorcee, played by Robert De Niro, who takes on a senior internship at a fashion site. Although he’s a good deal older than the traditional candidate, he fits right in with the team.

To prepare for this guaranteed tear-jerker, we’re taking a look at all of the mistakes Hollywood has made when it comes to portraying internships.

  • Your boss becomes your BFF.

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    In most internship movies, the intern miraculously ends up becoming best friends with their boss, or even dating them. Could you have a super-cool boss who you actually get along with? Yes. Are they going to invite you to hang out with them after hours, completely unrelated to work? Unlikely. Also creepy.

  • No one respects your ideas.

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    On the big screen, it always looks like interns are slaving for bosses with power complexes who don’t really respect their ideas. In reality, intern bosses usually welcome their intern’s unique and youthful ideas, even when they aren’t actually used. Don’t be afraid to speak up!

  • You never stop moving. Ever.

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    In movies like Post Grad (2009) and Intern, the poor interns are always running around without a moment to themselves. Well, don’t tell the boss, but at real internships, just like any other job, there will always be downtime that you spend being completely unproductive. Still, interns should always make themselves as useful as possible. More often than not, somebody needs your help.

  • Interns are in constant competition with each other.

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    Interns are supposed to fight to be the best, right? Not exactly. If you come across an internship where you are a part of a team of interns, it’s just that, a team. Interns are generally asked to work together to achieve the exact same goal. A good intern always strives to be the best at a given task but not at the expense of their peers. Trust us, you’ll have plenty of time to make enemies in the field that you’ll be working in in the future. No need to start making them early.

  • Internships are easy to land.

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    In The Internship, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s characters send in an interview video filled with blunders and—BAM!—they land one of the most prestigious internships in the country. Those of us who have done internships know the the process is more like: Apply to 50 internships, get called back by two.

  • Bigger is always better.

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    Hollywood makes it look like the bigger the company is, the better your experience will be. It’s true that some company names hold more weight than others, but let’s keep it real: A small local newsroom functions much the same as the New York Times. And more often than not, an intern will walk away with a bigger portfolio after working with a smaller team where they’re allowed to contribute more. So, don’t sweat the name.

  • If you do an awesome job as an intern, you automatically land a job.

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    This is what everyone hopes for, but it doesn’t always happen. It doesn’t mean that you sucked as an intern or weren’t appreciated. Sometimes companies just don’t have space for new hires, or there are too many applicants. Not every company is throwing jobs at you after you complete the internship, so when it does happen it’s a cause for celebration.

  • You make perpetual coffee runs.

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    OK, this one isn’t completely a lie. When you’re hard at work, caffeine is a necessity. Luckily, most bosses are nice enough to offer the interns some coffee as well and it isn’t the only job an intern has to do. (Sometimes you get to pick up dry cleaning, too.)

New York mind, L.A. heart, Greek hair.
@cwigginout