How To Not Treat Your Intern

One time, someone called me an internship hoarder. I often toss those words around in my mind, contemplating the true value of the (eight!) internships that I’ve had. These thoughts permeate every part of my brain as I connect my self worth to my professional aspirations and accomplishments. They seep into my frontal lobe on my walk to work, crawl through my limbic system as I complete mindless tasks, and screw with my amygdalae as I beeline to happy hour after particularly long days.

It seems that unpaid, or underpaid, labor is all the rage right now in the working world. And hey, it’s chill. I buy into it as a student scared shitless of imminent unemployment.  The vast majority of the superiors I’ve worked under have appreciated the effort I’ve put in as an intern, and have given me meaningful duties to balance out the menial ones. I’ve been able to create a portfolio, stack my resume like all the dolla bills I don’t have, network with influential people, and learn a ton about industries I potentially want a career in.

I’ve also learned that in some particularly miserable corners of the earth, figures like The Teacher From the Black Lagoon do exist and that The Devil Wears Prada is real. If you are an employer looking to turn your office into the Third Reich, just follow these simple steps to send your intern on a soul-searching spiral into Hades:

  • Don’t smile at me on my first day of work. And God forbid you give me a tour of the office! After all, I didn’t wake up hours in advance to preen myself, nor did I put on my most work-appropriate outfit to impress you. It’s not like I incessantly emailed your internship coordinator for the better part of a year pleading with her to hire me. And I most certainly didn’t forgo a summer at home in California to be your minion. Nope, no smiles necessary here.
  • Treat handbags with the same intensity that should be reserved for American intervention in Libya. Physically grabbing my arm and screaming, “MARA, I DO NOT NEED YOUR OPINION,” was a strong reaction considering a snakeskin clutch was the only thing at stake.
  • Make me swindle innocent PR people for free merchandise. We all know your company will never, ever use those sparkly iron-on letters you found at Michael’s. Those rhinestone monstrosities were not for a high fashion, professional photo shoot; they were for craft time at your daughter’s birthday party. You got that poor PR woman so excited. Do you know how many emails we interns received from her regarding the hundreds of dollars worth of product she sent us “as a donation?” You’re tacky and I hate you.
  • Speaking of your daughter’s birthday, thank you for making me lug 50 pounds of glitter and cake platters on the subway to your home to set up her Garden of Versailles themed party.
  • Drag your bratty five-year-old son into the office and let him run free with a Magic 8 Ball. I enjoyed it when he found my cubicle and hit me repeatedly in the back with it.
  • Make me do your personal shopping. When you want me to purchase film for your Polaroid camera so that you can snap shots of a family outing, give me your credit card to pay for said film. However, the cashier will not let me use it because I am not you, nor do I have a stash of fake IDs with your name on it to back it up (although if I did, you sure bet I would get revenge). I forked over $45 of my own money for that film, and you paid me back in THREE installments over the course of two weeks. You are my boss. I am your intern. You get paid by a multibillion-dollar corporation. I don’t get paid. You get treated to lavish company dinners. I subside mainly off of Ramen and beer. I need my beer money, man. Pay me back in a timely manner.
  • Make the interns do research for your home renovations, and then yell at me for having Home Depot fax something to the wrong number. Then discover that I actually had it faxed to the right number and that you are just a sociopath.
  • Have an impossible coffee order. I understand that as an intern, I may have to occasionally fetch you a hot cup of Joe. But when you order one shot of regular espresso mixed with one shot of decaf espresso, over ice, with a shot of simple syrup, raw sugar and enough milk to make it “the color of a brown paper bag,” you run the risk of me squatting over your Starbucks thermos while I serve you a steaming cup of shit. I hear that’s also the color of a brown paper bag. TC Mark
image – Shutterstock

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