Oh. The. Horror.
Don't worry, future interns of the work force, not all internships end up being a nightmare. When I was doing research for this article, there were plenty of people I chatted with who had incredible and enriching experiences with legit companies that set them up for successful career paths. That said, not all of us could be so lucky. But! Fortunately for all of you, they make for some very entertaining stories. So sit back, enjoy, and feel free to let us know about your #internshiphorrorstories over on Twitter. We're dying for more.
What's My Name Again?
"My first internship was the real-deal Devil Wears Prada-type internship of your dreams (read: nightmares). My primary job was to answer the phones. They gave me a script and everything so I did exactly as I was told. "Good afternoon, [name of place I worked], this is Sarah, how can I help you?"
Suddenly, I hear the CEO screaming from her office, "WHOEVER YOU ARE GET IN HERE NOW!!!"
Apparently, her name was also Sarah and she couldn't believe I would turn up for this internship with the nerve to go by the (most common ever) name of Sarah. It was already taken.
"What is your middle name?" We brainstormed.
"Julie?" I answered skeptically.
Later that day I was (probably) doing some menial office work when I heard OG Sarah screaming from her office, "JULIA!!! JULIA!!!!!!"
Having forgotten we'd settled on a new name for me, I looked at the office manager (who also didn't seem to like me very much) and said, "Well, whoever Julia is, she better get in there."
She squinted her eyes at me, and dryly coughed: "That's you."
It took a few more minutes of her yelling at me before we decided on a different nickname that day... Sadie. My Mom assured me it was indeed a nickname for Sarah.
At least it sounded kind of like Sarah? I lied to myself.
Needless to say, I ran personal errands for my namesake for an entire semester (it's not awkward at all picking up someone else lingerie btw). The only reason she ended up liking me is because I could remember her lunch order as an ex-waitress. A friend of mine who also worked there used to get read daily for not knowing how many lemon wedges should go in Sarah's water. It was 2, by the way." - Sarah
Coffee Girl & Ice Tea Girl Sound Awesome
"Walk in first day to PR office.
"Oh you’re the new girl, great, we have 2 mannequins for you to assemble.”
“Yes, I am Joanna – HI!! Where are the mannequins?”
Girl, drinking iced coffee (she describes it as the color of toffee when sends me to fetch it for her): “There are two of them in the box in the showroom.”
Walk back to the showroom – see two large boxes, start to unpack mannequin parts and read directions. Walk back to main office with clammy hands (because I am so nervous): “HI! Ummm, do you have a screw driver for me to use?”
Girl sips on coffee: “No, no, no, we don’t have anything like that here --- you just need to figure it out.”
Walk back to showroom, find a pair of scissors at an open desk.
3 hours later, 4 cuts on my fingers, and on 1 unstable mirrored mannequin platform, I assembled the mannequin with a pair of scissors, my bare hands and my nails.
Tried to assess if I could break for lunch after, but overheard coffee girl say to iced tea girl that eating was, "for fat people".
Awesome." - Joanna
Chip, Chip, Cheerio
"I was a Production Assistant: I spent a week sorting the best cheerios from 50 boxes, looking for the most perfect ones for a TV commercial shoot... you know where the milk flies in from the left and the cheerios fly in from the right and they smack into each other in mid-air slow motion.
Also, had to buy "typical NYC souvenirs" pack them into a box and then meet Ed Koch in his limo to ride with him to Laguardia and check the box in his luggage on the way to shoot a Snapple commercial. But I got to meet Uma Thurman and Steve Buschemi on the set of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues." - Scott
Full of Beans
"I worked 8am-6pm unpaid for 2 months and basically cleaned out supply closets and got Starbucks for everyone. Not exactly what I was hoping for, sadly! :(" - Lily
Voice Mail Fail
"I had a summer internship in San Francisco at the JDRF and was by far the youngest person in the whole office. I'd never, of course, had an office job.... I was in between junior and senior year of college. Totally awkward and out of my element. I had a cubicle in a room with 8 other young adults who, at the time, seemed a million years older than me, but in reality who were probably about my age now (30!) haha.
Anyway, I had to set up my personal voicemail message and everyone could hear me awkwardly stating my name and who I was/what my role at the company was, etc. and I had to redo it like four times only to end up finding out that I had somehow overridden the CEO's voicemail message with my own awkward, "Hi this is Molly X, HR intern for the JDRF....awkward silence, awkward silence. um Ok please leave a name and number, etc."..... I had to talk to her about editing her own voicemail message my third day on the job, and in my very first conversation with her. And, the whole office heard the exchange." - Molly
Crash & Burn
"Interned at a small investment group. Long story short, I crashed my boss's Maserati GranTurismo. Not one of my finest moments..." - Anthony
Fox in the Henhouse
"I was producing on a TV show and we would generally have two interns at a time but this particular semester, we had one-- a Junior, rich kid from Great Neck. Super friendly and charismatic. The intern desk was in the equipment cage and one day the supervising producer noticed three $800 Lavalier Microphones were missing. (Side note: this kid collected Jordan's and his Facebook was just pictures of shoes and we were like "hmm weird") I'm telling this story badly, let me backtrack.
Like two weeks into his internship the same supervising producer gave him a company card (without my knowledge) and an hour later the show creator asked me if there was a reason a $200 something dollar charge would appear on the card because he just got an alert and I was like "No, report it as stolen" and then forgot about it.
A week later the mics disappeared. And then we saw the charge on the card was from Niketown and the show creators opened an investigation with the police which turned up crystal clear surveillance footage from Niketown of the kid buying a Mark Sanchez jersey. So, now the police were looking for this kid and he shows up the next morning like nothing happened.
I had to fire him in the elevator, and he immediately starts crying and apologizing (keep in mind, he has like 8 inches and 100 pounds on me). He ended up leaving a $1000 pair of Jordan's in the office.
Also, the HR person never had him fill out internship paper work so if we pursued a lawsuit he could countersue because he wasn't technically receiving credit yet.
One more detail: all of the old props/costume from the show were in that room, and the other assistant was a sweet religious girl. I think he was trying to impress her (poor girl couldn't have seen any of it coming). He grabbed a pair of breakaway pants that said "2012" on them from some dumb sketch and was like "I could just steal these and no one would even know!" (she told us this after the rest unfolded). He was bragging!
Ugh, we saw on Linkedin that his next job was in a video equipment rental place. Fox in the henhouse!" - Ben
Work Work Work Workout
"I had to clean out an insane 2K square foot warehouse filled with junk. Got lots of exercise that summer! " - Kristi
Home Sweet No
"So during one of my internships, the SVP I reported to was having a room in his apartment re-painted. He claimed his dog was "scared" of the painters, so I was sent to his apartment for the day to watch his dog and make sure the workers weren't being mean to her.
The Wifi and heat in his apartment didn't seem to work correctly, and his TV was programmed to all of the shows he DVRed, so I couldn't even change the channel to keep busy.
There was a rule at the time that if an Exec made an intern do personal work, they should get paid for it (One woman was engaged and asked an intern to make a grid for her table assignments, and he got paid, for example.) So I was expecting to make pretty decent bucks, since I was at his apartment for eight hours straight and had to pay to get lunch delivered.
When I arrived the next morning, he not only reprimanded me for allowing the painters to paint the room differently than he wanted (as if I was supposed to know what he wanted!) he also only handed me $40, which was clearly lower than minimum wage." - Lindsay
"My second story, at the same place: One afternoon, my team announced they wanted Chick-Fil-A for lunch, and would have me go pick it up. In itself, that's not bad; typical intern grunt work. So they gave me the address of the nearest Chick-Fil-A and gave me the boss's card for a cab and the lunch for us.
I went on my way, and gave the driver the address (mind you, this was before we all had smart phones!). When the driver pulled up to the address, there was no Chick-Fil-A in sight, and it was an ethnic neighborhood near NYU. Since I couldn't keep the driver waiting, I got out and figured I would ask a local business owner. No shop I stopped in knew anything about a local Chick-Fil-A, then I finally found a nice bookstore owner that would allow me to use a computer for internet. I realized the address was actually the NYU student center, because NYU has a Chick-Fil-A on campus.
So I make my way to NYU's building nearby, and the poor security guard had to tell me that the address online was wrong, Chick-Fil-A was actually in a totally different building😞. So I made my way to that building, only to find the Chick-Fil-A with lines out the door since a huge lecture class had just gotten out.
I FINALLY got everyone's meals together and delivered lunch back to the office at oh, about 3:45pm. Everyone appreciated it, but it was my first and last Chick-Fil-A experience" - Lindsay
"I think my horror story is that I did a curatorial internship for a year at an art museum and didn't get a job in my chosen field... because who the eff hires an art history major in a recession... technically an issue, but I'm pleased with where I've ended up. ;)" - Michelle (Editor's Note: Michelle is opening a restaurant in Chicago so she did A-OK!)
Up in Smoke
[Publication] had an intern who bought cigarettes on the company credit card :(" - Allison
The Walking Target
"One time as a news intern they had me cover a "zombie apocalypse paintball tournament." I thought I was going there to interview people/vendors about the event. Instead they strapped me up in paintball gear and sent me into the battlefield to get B-Roll of the players. It was kinda cool but like def not what I signed up for... idc how much padding you have on, you still feel the paintball when it hits you." - Haley
"I was working at a certain fashion magazine, and the editors had given too many favors to friends and hired six interns instead of two.
We "crowded their space" so they would make us wait for their beck and call in the accessories closet. (A large room, but still.) We would get so bored that we would order the shoes in color order. And then we would do it again. In the reverse.
One such day, we asked to leave at 6 (our rightful time to end our unpaid internship), and this editor apparently was working through some issues of his own. He looked at us and goes "Go through that bag of gloves. Find a pair for everyone." There were HUNDREDS. They had no plans for them. We had been asking for work to do all day.
But hey, apparently dusty gloves need to be paired at 6 p.m." - Jillian
Dress for Success
"I had an internship where I was working on a folding chair in the corner on my laptop with no table, but I feel like that's pretty standard?
But then I had an intern who showed up for her second day an hour late, in a tube top with no bra, and leggings/flip flops...
I also remembered that in that same internship of mine I had to proof credits for the magazine, found they had misspelled my name and told them, and then they didn't bother to fix it..." - Sam
Define "Real Company"
"I worked at a real company where our we had to take conference calls in a janitors closet because there were no conference rooms." - Marisa
Oh, should I not bring my fake ID?
"One time I told my intern we were all getting drinks after work and she asked me if I was cool with her coming and using her fake ID..." - Jackie
"I have a student teaching horror story!
My cooperating teacher and I didn't get along from the beginning. We have very different working styles and I think that she set unreasonable expectations from the start. She had never had a student teacher before so her only experience was her own and have I mentioned--we were very different.
What made it more of a nightmare is that she was also very petty. I started noticing that when I would walk into the teacher's lounge and she was in there with other teachers that the conversation would die down, all eyes on me.
She started posting vague but pointed Facebook statuses about me online.
It became a hostile and unproductive working environment very quickly that felt more like BEING in high school than teaching high school.
The cherry on top came when she told me, in the middle of the day, that she didn't think that I could do this. (Which, by the way, I'm damn good at my job!)
It was awful. I counted down the days until I was out of the room and had to take a few years out of the classroom before I was ready to try again. BUH." - Crystal
I Don't Care
"My first day at my internship this semester, I walked onto the unit I was working on, and a patient walked up to me and my supervisor (mind you, the very first patient I ever had an interaction with at this site...). My supervisor said good morning to her, introduced me and said that I was the new student intern. Her response was, "I don't care who the F$#! she is!"
My jaw dropped... like what do you say to a person after they say that you, regardless of their mental status hahaha!" - Kat