Commentary | You Are Here: Internships 101: A Daily Guide

It’s that time of the year again. Three weeks have passed since our Christmas holiday ended, and we’re already salivating over the next big one: summer. Summer means tough choices. Some of you will just go on vacation, others will continue to take classes, or lazily enjoy a Montreal summer. But a select few will take the fourth way. This courageous bunch will struggle through convoluted applications and brave the stultifying interview process, all so that they might become the envy of their peers: summer interns.

Getting an internship can be hard, but this column will tell you everything you need to know. And it won’t clog up your inbox, unlike all those emails a certain university sends to all its students. So here it is, The McGill Daily’s unofficial (and slightly unethical) guide to a successful internship:

First, you need to know what you’re getting into. My dictionary defines an intern as “a person who is or has been interned, especially in wartime; internee.” That’s because the original interns were prisoners of war who were forced to perform menial labour while they lived in internment camps. This system worked well enough, but when peacetime came and interns were released, nobody was interested in taking their old jobs. (This may have had something to do with the wording of the classified ad: “Full-Time Interns Wanted: Employer abides by the Geneva Convention!”) Eventually someone realized that they could just hire students, who would sign up for just about anything billed as “valuable work experience.”

Once you find an internship to apply for, the next big question is “Should I embellish the credentials on my resume?” The correct answer is “Yes.” Internships are competitive, and the odds are good that someone out there is a better hire than you. They were probably feeding orphans in Burkina Faso last summer, while you were getting stoned and watching Law & Order reruns. But don’t worry – the good news is that the person hiring you has probably never been to Burkina Faso, so they don’t know you weren’t there last summer.

Some fabricated credentials can go a long way, and remember that you have to outdo the competition: “The other applicants just fed the orphans? Well I’m not one to brag, but I cooked gourmet three-course meals for them.”

If all goes well, your updated resume will get you hired, and you’ll get to work in your field of interest. And by “work in your field of interest,” I mean “collate expense reports, fetch coffee, and sort paperclips for someone else, who works in your field of interest.” Unfortunately, most interns never get past this stage because they don’t know the secret of a successful internship.

The secret is that someone you work with – we’ll call him Bob – has to die shortly before a major deadline. Since it’s the middle of the summer, anybody who might be qualified to fill in for Bob will be on vacation. Your boss will therefore walk into your cubicle and give you your big shot. “Bob just died, and we still have to (insert task related to your field of interest) by next Tuesday, but I don’t have the time or the budget to hire someone qualified for the position, so guess what – you’re the new Bob!”

That concludes your guide to a successful internship. Enjoy your promotion, and remember to take credit for most of the work Bob did. Don’t worry – he would have wanted it that way.

Bernard Rudny will embellish your resume for a nominal fee. He can be reached at bernard.rudny@mail.mcgill.ca.


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