7 things I learned from an unpaid internship at a beauty startup

My thought process behind getting an unpaid internship was not completely logical. I ended up randomly applying for a marketing and social media internship one day, and the next thing I remember I’ve finished 3 whole months of it. Onto my next step!

I was a marketing and social media intern for a beauty startup. It was a mobile beauty service focused on nails, waxing, and eyelashes. Which sounds pretty awesome, and there were some pretty awesome perks, I mean, I’m not getting paid but I get some experience (in something I had no experience in) and free occasional beauty treatments? How bad could it be?

Turns out I learned more than just marketing. Actually, I feel like I learned more about life than I did actually learn about marketing. Here are the few things that I learned from my 3 months during my internship:

#1 The power of a good manicure

I’m not one to spend money on doing my nails. Mani-pedis are a luxury for many. But that doesn’t mean that manicures aren’t empowering af. Over the 3 months, I don’t think I let my nails go unpainted, I didn’t even realise how long they had gotten until the end of the internship.

I think the free manicures is the thing I miss the most. Goodbye to my beautifully painted nails!

#2 No one really knows what they’re doing

When I started this internship I wrote a post all about how I didn’t feel good enough to be there. I discovered that impostor’s syndrome is a super real thing, and so many people suffer from it.

I met a lot people who told me that they were winging it every day. In a way it was comforting, but on the other hand, it was alarming that I could be 27 and still have no idea what I’m doing with my life. Which appears more and more likely every day. 

Related: How to deal with imposters syndrome

#3 you’re never doing as bad as you think you are

I realised that seeing as no one else knows what they’re doing, it can be easy to fool people into them thinking you know what you’re doing. If you simply put yourself out there, all of your ideas and thoughts, you will be seen as someone that’s constantly on the job.

My perception of how that was going was so much worse than how it actually went. I didn’t wholly believe in myself, partly because I didn’t have any experience doing anything that I was doing there. 

One day I ran out crying out of feeling completely useless. My friend came down to me. She told me “don’t confuse feeling useless to actually being useless.” Which is something that will stay with me forever. Thank you Ells. 

#4 Appreciating people can go a long way

There are so many ways in which you can appreciate your staff other than money. In my case, yes I was unpaid, could I afford to even buy lunch? No. But was I at least being told I was doing a good job? Also no.

The motivation of employees when feeling undervalued or underappreciated honestly just plummets down. I never thought just getting a “good job” would affect how I did my work. I know that people need to be appreciated. That’s something I already knew, but it’s something that was very clearly demonstrated during my internship.

#5 PR is the stuff of nightmares

I applied for an internship as a marketing and social media intern, but before I started the internship, I had been told I would also be helping with the company’s PR. I imagined PR to be something completely different than it was. But either way, building databases, looking for emails, cold emailing. Repetitive is the word to describe PR. 

Not for me. On the plus side, I got a load of LinkedIn connections!

#6 Startup culture is everything

I learned that I love a small team. All my previous experience had been in big and established corporations where my job had been set from day to day, and I knew exactly what I’d be doing.

Startup culture means the same 10 people, every day, working towards the success of the business, pitching into every aspect of it when needed. You become the closest work-family ever.

You get those who you become especially close with. Here are the other two interns, who made the whole experience so worth it.

Unpaid bitches forever!

#7 Elitism is real

The fact that there are people that can afford to work for free is something that no one should take for granted. 

I was very lucky to have been able to live with my parents and not pay rent or bills. My travel expenses were covered, and I had lunch that I could bring into work almost every day. This is the experience that allowed me to get a paying job, a “step up” in this kind of work, which I couldn’t have done without my unpaid internship.

Overall, it was an experience that brought me to a lot of growth. A “real world” experience that taught me how to handle a lot, yet in a gentle way, where I was free to walk away when I wanted.

It’s been a stepping stone into adulthood. And I made some lovely friends along the way. 


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

17 Responses

  1. Macey Gloria

    I’m happy to hear you learned so much from this experience–in life and in business! Being able to take away real life-lessons and being able to grow in that regard is always so rewarding. That quote about feeling useless versus actually being useless is amazing as well; what an encouraging thing to hear x

    twinklexthoughts.blogspot.com

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  2. kattieh

    It’s always a bad feeling when you feel like you’re not doing a good job. I have felt like that before, but I started taking to my boss or colleagues and it turned out I was doing well! It’s so good to be able to take positive experiences from your internship. I feel like getting a manicure now!

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  3. I couldn’t agree with you more about thinking PR was something more exciting than it actually is after a year of creating databases and finding email addresses 😩😂 great post, Lav, as always! 💗

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  4. I felt like I was there with you through it all and this post has brought me back LOL. You are moving up in the world now, chilling in your big girl internship that is PAID! I am so happy for you. Also, you make me laugh. “But was I at least being told I was doing a good job? Also, no.” I relate to this way way too much. You my dear are doing an excellent job in all things. Keep kicking ass and taking names. I’ll be along for the ride, always! ❤

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  5. Geraldine

    I can’t believe I never saw this post?! These are all such good lessons, especially #2 and 3! You might feel like you need to know exactly what you’re doing to make a good impression but most likely others feel that way too! It’s so hard when you’re in the moment though cause you’re just trying to make a good impression. But so true!! Thank you for sharing ❤

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