I was in my senior year of high school, and my shop teacher noticed that I was excelling in class and he recommended me to a program where students are placed in various companies. One of my friends was sent off to work at Bombardier at JFK airport. Another was sent to work at an MTA bus depot in Brooklyn. I was sent to work at the Louis Berger Group, an engineering consulting firm in Manhattan. When I first arrived there and my supervisor introduced me to everyone, I immediately thought this would be a boring, dull, mundane job where I would be sitting down most of the day doing tedious jobs. For the most part, I was right. I was very disappointed when my friends told me they were helping a mechanic fix a train or bus and I was doing measly office work. I went to school to learn to become an electrician, and they placed me in an environment where my skills would be of no value.
The day after my first visit, I was positioned in the printing department. I hated this job. The workload consisted of printing out large documents, using a hole punching machine to punch them, and then binding them for transport. Employees from all around the company, some even in different states, would email my superior with large PDF documents that usually needed to be shipped the next day. It was relatively busy in the printing department, but I did not feel important. I felt that they just placed me there because I didn’t have any useful skills other employees would need. One of my coworkers said it perfectly, I was at the bottom of the totem pole, but just as the bottom was needed for support and foundation, everyone was important to the company in some way. I didn’t believe that. I thought her job was meaningless and so was my assignment to help her.
It wasn’t until a month later until I actually started to do work which I thought was significant to the company. I told my supervisor that I was going to study Finance in college and he had me work with the accountant. My supervisor thought it would be a good way to get some “real-world” experience, but my age, coupled with the fact that I was not working directly for the company made it more of a dilemma than a delight. The accountant was very kind but unfortunately she did not have time to really show me how to do the job since she was busy with project deadlines. Most of the time she had me making copies and filing away finished documents. Sometimes she would let me observe and inform me on what she was doing. But I digress, I felt that I was more of a liability to her than an asset because I took time away from her schedule and thus hampered her productivity.
At one time, the company needed me to deliver some project documents to a client in Long Island City to meet a deadline. This made me feel very important as it was their biggest client, the NYC School Construction Authority. My company was contracted to inspect schools around the city for hazardous chemicals such as asbestos. The accountant I was working with was creating invoices in order to receive payment for the company’s services. I was ecstatic when my supervisor came up to me and said, “Hey Anthony! I need you to make a special delivery, can you do it?” I quickly replied, “Sure no problem Ron. Where do you need me to go?” He said, “I need you to go to the SCA and deliver these invoices. Don’t worry the taxi fare is taken care of.” He handed me some money for the fare and I was off. This assignment the company gave to me made me feel empowered, as the documents in my hand meant money for the company. During the three months of my internship, nothing felt better than this experience.
In the last month of my internship, the company employees scurried around, in the process of moving to another location. I helped my fellow workers pack files into boxes. The IT
technicians also let me setup new computers at the new location. In my head I thought I should have been doing this for three months rather than floating around and hoping to do something meaningful. Overall I don’t think my internship was too bad. It became a good thing job-wise because I not only gained experience in the work place but also some great professional contacts.
When most people think of internship, they think about getting the managers coffee and filing away papers and documents. Although I did not ever get my supervisor coffee, I did have to do a lot of tedious filing and waiting for someone to need my assistance. I remember working one day and last year’s intern decided to stop by and see how things are going at the company. He is in college now, like me, and had to do the same work that I did during my internship. He showed me how to better organize the files, while also sharing some jokes about the employees. While I did not learn any great life lesson from this internship, it did give me a firsthand view of the corporate world and how things work in an office environment.