What Every Intern Needs to Know

I started a three year internship seven years ago this month. It has led me on a wild adventure that landed me the job I wanted for several years. But getting a job isn’t necessarily the end result of doing an internship. Sure dreams do come true…but sometimes they don’t. What the internship did was to prepare my heart for the last seven years of my life.

Throughout the three years, there seemed to be three things that I learned; one lesson every year of the internship. These life lessons hadn’t fully developed in me in either in the work place, school, or in social settings. But the internship seemed to somehow bring them out in ways that nothing else could and the internship molded me into who I am today.

In the first year, I learned to serve. I had waited tables for four years. I was a “server” but the biggest problem was that I didn’t know how to serve. While waiting tables I learned how to serve people and how to make them happy. It got to a point where I was so focused on making people happy that I was killing myself…this is not serving. In that first year, I learned to serve without expecting anything in return. I learned to freely give of myself. I had to run around sometimes like a chicken with its head cut off…I was that intern…serving a bigger and greater purpose…and expecting nothing in return.

In the second year, I learned to die unto myself. This may seem contrary to everything that we know, but that second year, for any intern, is always a struggle. It is a struggle financially, relationally, and spiritually. You begin to question everything, “Why am I here, why am I wasting my time, they aren’t recognizing me, nobody would know if I didn’t show up, they’re just using me, etc.” These are the questions and thoughts that went through my mind…and maybe yours as well.

The second year of any internship can drive some people away or make them crazy. It’s tough…I know that, I did that, went through that, and experienced it first hand. But it was also my favorite year because I stopped making everything about me. I learned to subdue the little monster inside of me that kept asking, “What’s in it for me?” Because I learned to ask, “what if nothing’s in it for me…does it matter?” Through the first lesson of learning to serve, came the second lesson of dying to myself…killing the pride, narcissism, and envy.

Lastly, after the first two lessons, I learned that my calling isn’t my own. I learned that my dreams and my hopes aren’t mine. They were given to me, planted in me, and originated someplace else. I stopped holding onto them tightly and I gave them back to the One who had given them to me. When I gave back what wasn’t mine, what I had wrongfully taken, I was able to freely live my life. But what was un-expected was to get those dreams back, and to have them gift wrapped!

So here’s what I want those of you reading this to get. 1) Internships are great! I learned a lot, I struggled a lot, I wrestled a lot, and I SERVED a lot! 2) There are life lessons out there that you’ll never get by just staying safe, or by sticking to the status quo. Take a leap of faith to be a part of something bigger than you. 3) At any time, you can quit. So the bigger question is, “why are you doing it…why are you serving…why are you killing yourself and not getting paid?” When you can answer those questions, with peace and purpose for your life, then you are ready to change the world.

Horse trainers, have several things they have to do to train a horse. They have to get them familiar with the bridle and the saddle, and then a rider. It takes hours and days and months to get them to a point where they no longer “run wild, buck, or flair their nostrils.” The internship did that for me; it broke me of things and misconceptions that would have ruined me for anyone else. Hopefully someday someone will say that you’re ready for the world and ready for work, by saying, “You’re no longer green broke.”

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