On the nature of resilience: surviving a nightmare internship
Sebastian Bopp recounts his turbulent internship experience and shares the lessons he has learnt from it.
Finding an internship demands much resourcefulness and no short amount of resilience. But at no other time has the need for resilience been more important than during my actual internship. My boss threatened to fire me almost ten times during the course of the seven months I worked there. One of those times it was for being late.
During every week of my internship, I was most often the one to open the office or arrive second at 8:45 or 8:50, when the working day began at nine o’clock. One week, I had to go to A&E twice due to post-operation complications and therefore arrived late. My boss said that if I was late again because I went to A&E I would be fired and that I should make my medical appointments outside of work hours.
During the first two months of my internship, I would be routinely harassed, put down or degraded by my boss. This I would not tolerate, and I would always defend myself and my work, but this got me nowhere – in fact, it got me into more trouble.
To avoid more confrontation, I changed my approach and became the yes-man my boss desired. Come into the office whilst everyone else is in lockdown, due to a massive surge in COVID numbers? Yes. Send a fifth lot of marketing emails to people I have already discussed the event with on the phone and are not interested? Yes. Fill out a million excel files that we already have and hold no real value for the company? Why, most enthusiastically yes!
To avoid more confrontation, I changed my approach and became the yes-man my boss desired
I then spent the following three months working full-time, with much of the rest of my time spent searching for another internship to fulfil the required 24 weeks of the Employment Experience programme.
By the end of my fifth month, I had had many interviews but, unfortunately, no substitution placement. By now, my yes-man approach was working quite effectively at the office and I decided to ride out the rest of my internship, despite feeling like my work didn’t have much value, what value it did have were the skills I acquired – those that I taught myself.
Ultimately, the internship was still a valuable experience for me. Not only did it improve my resilience but more surprisingly it also restored my determination. Since being at university, as much as I worked, the lack of a more concrete goal outside of just getting a good mark in my degree saw my determination languish somewhat. The very real prospect of being stuck in one of these jobs after graduation has redressed my desire to work hard. Not just on my degree, but more importantly to develop skills outside of it, those that I will need to find success in working life.
If someone is regularly threatening to fire you and otherwise making you feel incredibly uneasy at work, don’t lose hope. I have found it is important not to put up with abuse, and if you cannot reason or talk your way out of harsh working conditions, it is most certainly time to leave.