My first internship was not very glamorous. At the volunteer-run Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, I did countless hours of data entry. My main job, which I spent about 60 hours doing, was entering volunteers’ information into a new computer program. Transferring the information from hundreds of paper documents to the online system was tedious, time-consuming, and boring. But surprisingly, it was important.
My experience as an intern was similar to that of many high school and college students who start out volunteering and interning at nonprofits and other organizations. Often they are stuck doing busy work — making copies, typing, and answering phones. It is easy to get frustrated by that work, but one of the best lessons I ever learned is that every job matters.
It is imperative to realize that even the most mundane tasks help an organization’s mission and propel it toward reaching its goals. Think of those small jobs as the building blocks of the foundation of the organization. Groups like AAUW could never lobby Congress, have programs like $tart $mart, or publish Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School without individuals fact checking, calling for donations, or holding local branch meetings. Changing the world is a collaborative mission, and every task plays an integral role in reaching that goal.
Always remember to focus on the bigger picture. Though typing for hours was difficult, in the end, having every volunteer’s information in the computer system made it easier to contact, organize, and mobilize them. This directly enabled more volunteers to go out and educate people about reproductive health issues.
So next time you are disappointed by the dull job you are assigned at your internship, remember that what you are doing is the first step toward enabling something amazing to happen.