“I’m the Intern.”

Subtitle: I’d Pay You to Pay Me.

This is a departure from the usual more location-based blog post, but after all, the reason that I’m in New York in the first place is for an internship.

Ah, the internship. College students everywhere scratch and claw all year long (ok, more desperately come Spring) for something worthwhile to say when we inevitably encounter the question, “So what are you doing this summer?.” The prestegious universities pride themselves on prestegious students. These students often have the great, albeit sometimes annoying, habits of being exceptional and driven and proactive. As a result, they land impressive summer work, volunteer work, and internships. When asking my friends what they will be doing this summer, I’m not kidding you, one answered “researching stem cells and their abilities to cure cancer.” But, that’s just a part-time gig. Ok.

Many are working on Wall Street, playing young professionals, but actually less playing and more becoming those young professionals. The suit is no longer a costume. Others volunteer at hospitals. Others ship off to Africa, or China, or fill-in-the-blank-impoverished-country. The point is, these are kids (kids?) whom are doing impressive things. The summer is no longer for popsicles. It’s for bettering ourselves, betting the economy, the environment, the needy, etc. The summer is for bettering, and growth. Maybe as much as our classes are, maybe more.

So, likewise, I have this internship. Now, I’m not in Africa. I’m not on Wall Street – although, I’m locationally close. I’m certainly not working with stem cells. Although, I require stem cells to work, don’t I? Anyway, I’m hoping to better myself this summer. Hoping to learn more about myself, about my desired industry, about real life – yadda, yadda, yadda.

Here’s the strange reality though, industries treat interns in vastly different manners. My friends in the financial fields go through extensive interview and recruiting processes. They follow case studies. The are flown out for final round questioning. They attend corporate schmoozing events. They have orientation weeks. They get free lunches, free coffee, free company swag. They’re dating these potential employers. It’s all about getting offers and finding the favorite. Because, the internship they choose will likely result in a job offer. That job offer will then determine where they live for the next X years. Determine what they’re doing. How much money they’re making. Where they eat on the weekends. Who their company friends are. Maybe even who they date. Maybe. It’s a big deal. Therefore, they work like feens to get these internships.

Arts and Letters internships on the other hand, are much more fluid. The prospective intern basically has to beg for the job. We basically bug the company to look at our resumes. We beg them to “just talk to us on the phone for a few minutes.” We drool for an informational interview. And once we land a real interview, it’s like Candyland. In our fields, they aren’t necessarily about case studies. It’s more about if they like you. If you connect. Sure, you need relative experience, but that could be secondary.

Then you get your dream internship. Maybe you’re with tons of other interns, but maybe, like my case, you’re basically the only one. There is no orientation week. There are no free dinners, free lunches, free company swag. There’s no free, really, except for the fact that you’re working for free, most likely. Because these are the fields where the companies can’t afford to pay you. They have all the leverage. Because if you don’t want to work for free, the 15 people behind you do. And, will.

So, you work for free, because you love what you do. Because you want the experience. Because that will eventually pay. Won’t it? We hope so. Buzzword: experience. You need it. So you do your job, as best you can, like your friends with their corporate internships, in hopes of improving yourself and learning. We’re all in the same game in that regard. And, I’m not saying one way is better.

At the end of the summer, we all hope that our employers love us. We hope that we’ve impressed them. We hope we have made a difference, done well, been a valuable member to the team. We hope we’ve been the best little interns possible. We hope/dream that we’ve become a little more than the little intern.

Here’s the difference: in the creative fields, even if we have done a great job, exceeded expectations etc, there might not/probably won’t be a job offer on our way out. It’s just the way it works. These places can’t afford to promise jobs in a year. They work on a demand/opening basis. The best we hope for is a stellar reccomendation or a place in their memory when they are hiring. We hope for the, “Oh yeah, she was great. Let’s call her” moment.

We work for free for the chance at a maybe job or recomendation in the future. We work to get our feet wet. We work in insecurity.

But, these places reward us in the working environment, in the work, in the no dress code, in the creativity, in the people we learn from. Honestly the days are so varied and sometimes funny that I could write a book. Chapters would include:

Since When do I Drink Coffee? – The Realities of Caffeinism.

Can I Please Be Rich?

Photoshop Is Cool.

What is Air Conditioning? What is Life?

I’m a Social Media Monster.

There’s No Crying in Internships.

Making Friends?

Being Early, Being Late

I Hate Photoshop.

Is PB&J Still Appropriate? And Other Lunchtime Quandries

Gmail Chat Etiquette.

What to Expect When You’re FedEx-ing

and

A Eulogy to Summer Friday Office Hours.

……

Move over Proust, right? Well, I must be off. Time to go to work.

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