Attention Interns: Are you less innovative, stressed out by deadlines, fear, and lack of focus?

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A intern tries to give helpful advice to other interns on how to stay motivated on the job.

intern housing NYC
The places that you might be able to afford in NYC.
It is June and it is intern season in New York City. I paid my dues last summer and I know that by mid-July, paid or unpaid, things are going to get rough. After the excitement of the grown up clothes, new email account, and independent living wears off. The city starts to wear on you, the hard office labor becomes a burden, and the other interns turn annoying. By July, I began to question seriously the decisions that I had made that led me to live predominantly off one one dollar pizza and peanut butter.

Of course, I lived the most challenging way in an attempt to avoid the NYU dorm housing that I heard I would have to donate part of my liver to afford. So instead, I was on a deflated air mattress in an illegal Airbnb with two other interns. In case you were curious, it is very, very hard to stay clean when sleeping under a dining room table. And yes, I did wake up to cockroaches crawling on me. And no, that never became something that was ever okay.

NYC buildings
The places you thought you could afford.
And while I would never, ever go back to that, I don’t regret any of it because I learned so much. From the artist studio, I realized that it is nearly impossible to make any money from art and that you can get nasty rashes from resin chemicals. I also learned that some artist studios depend entirely on unpaid interns to make any money at all. And yes, that is illegal.

In addition to the nightmare artist studio, I was lucky enough to intern for I am fortunate enough to continue interning for They never made me work with dangerous chemicals which I appreciated. I also got to see how a functioning business works and how to treat employees well which was a great contrast to my other studio internship.

But even though I want to do a good job for them and have developed a quite the connection to the website, I lost motivation and innovation at various points throughout the year. Working a real job is challenging. Which should not have come as a surprise as I grew up with adults constantly talking about how hard work is. But I guess it was just the shock of how different it is in comparison to doing school work.  Because a lot of the time work is about getting things done well and getting them done on time, the same way every time. It is a little less about exploring and learning. The details matter but so do braid ideas, every part is important.
unpaid intern quote
What you tell yourself over and over again as an intern
With work, when I mess up, I am messing up a company and a brand not just my own grade. During my first week last year, I decided to take the initiative to put the company offices onto google maps. While the motivation was slightly selfish because I needed to know how to get to work every day, I also figured it was important for other people to find the office. But I messed up the name into the form. Not once. Not twice. But I messed it up three times and had to wait for Google to fix it. Another time at the artist studio, I spilled one hundred dollars worth of toxic liquid plastic all over my legs, leaving me with a large rash and an angry artist.

I learned that at work, there are very real consequences. I got a little stressed out about messing up important things after that one. Which made me nervous and quiet and ultimately worse at my job. I was stressed and inefficient. Also, while your boss probably likes being checked with about important things, they probably do not want you asking them about every single little thing that you are doing.

But this video on about innovation and focus has some good advice in it. It is also just a fun and encouraging video. Because once I became competent at my internships, it was important that I was brave too. It not only made me a better intern but helped me enjoy what I was doing.

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Are you less innovative at work when you are stressed out by deadlines, fear, and lack of focus? 

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About the Author: Claire HarnEnz is an intern at and attends Kenyon College

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