Monday, 24 May 2010

To Lunch, or Not to Lunch

Ok, I'm not going to lie: I like my lunch break.

I like being able to have that hour in the middle of the day where I can contemplate life and my surroundings and really assess the state of humanity, and what I am doing on the humble Planet Earth.

I also like meeting up with Daisy and hypothesising what our friend's weddings will be like. 

We do this on a surprisingly regular basis.

But there is also that internal struggle over whether or not I should be frolicking in the streets of London when my "colleagues" are hunched over their desks, eating a sandwich using mouth only, whilst both hands are tied to their computer keyboard.

At the vacuuming - sorry, production - internship, the choice was made for me. I was not there to eat lunch. I was there to fetch lunch for others. It would have been unthinkable to leave the building unless I was returning with 5 bags of M&S food and a packet of Urgent Cigarettes. And no, that's not a brand name.

At the - ehem - online fashion magazine - which I have spoken most delightfully about in the past, most of them seemed to bring food from home. This was helped along by the fact that the office was set in the middle of a concrete desert, so there really was nowhere to go even if I wanted to. In fact, there was nothing said about lunch break until nearly my last day, when they had obviously decided that they want to have a "talk" about me and Other Intern Girl without us hearing. This was because we had dared to speak to one another. We were politely "informed" that lunch break was taken daily between the hours of 12pm and 2pm. It was now 1:30. Hint: leave now so we can talk about you.

But I digress.

On the whole, it seems that those who actually Get Paid are expected to use their payroll hours productively, which largely means grabbing food on the go.

But where does the lowly intern fit in to that picture?

One intern-supervisor positively encouraged me to take a full hour every day. The words "we're not paying you, so the least we can give you is an hour's lunch break" seemed remarkable sentient of her, and I have to say I appreciate her point of view.

If you're slogging it out for the same amount of hours as people with actual jobs, but not being paid for it, what harm is there in taking an hour in which to collect your thoughts and psyche yourself up for the next batch of errands?

But at the same time, should you be attempting to ape a Real Job as much as possible, in the hope that one day they might forget that you're an intern and accidently put you on the payroll?

It's all about appearing inconspicuous, right?

I don't really know where I'm going with this - what do other interns think? To lunch, or not to lunch?

I shall ponder this on my walk to Pret. It's 1 o'clock after all, and I'm starving...

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Reader, I Did His Expenses

Once in a while there comes along an internship that makes my heart sing, that makes me realise that there are some people in this world who actually realise what an internship is for, and more importantly that an intern is actually a person, rather than just than chameleon-like being who changes appearences every month and is there to clean the kitchen.

As you may be able to tell, I started a new internship today, and the result is just...ah!

Words do not suffice.

Never fear, faithless followers, this does not mean that Ms. Intern will be giving up her anarchic tone for a world of sweetness and light.

After all, she loves nothing more than seeing the irrelevant replies clogging up her blog about exactly how much money she has in her bank account.

I am sure that I will find plenty to gripe about in the coming months, and if not...I have a wealth of injustices stored up from past experience.

But in the meantime, I feel that all is right in the world.

Perhaps it is because, for once, I am interning in exactly the department of exactly the industry I want to be in: namely Film Development.

I am greeted each morning by the twinkling chatter of box office ratings and potential castings.

I sigh contentedly as I caress scripts, still warm from the printer, and frolic to the supplies cupboard to achieve roladex cards and spare binders.

If this were a Disney movie, it would be a part where the little blue birds come out and start making me a dress out of scrap paper and treasury tags.

But mainly, I think it is because the people working there have actual been brought up with good grace, and the common sense that, really, treating people like crap does nothing for anyone.

I don't think I've ever been in an environment where I've heard the words "please" and "thank you" so much.

It's like being back in primary school.

And when one of the bosses asked me to pop to Starbucks for him, he even asked me if I wanted one too.

It took me a while to actually work out what he was saying, "I'm sorry, what now? Me, have a coffee? That's not how it works. I'm all confused. Where's the special cappucino maker, and the variety pack of tea?"

Of course, there is still the amount of admin, intern level stuff to be done - don't get me wrong, I'm not the one hiring and firing yet. But what this has made me realise is that it is not necessarily a question of WHAT you are asked to do, but HOW you are asked to do it.

I honestly don't mind filing receipts, doing photocopying, making coffee etc - hell I'll even get their weightwatchers supplements - if the person asking is gracious enough to understand that they are asking you to do something as a favour to them, rather than just commanding you to do their bidding.

In contrast, one incident at the vaccuum-cleaning-hell-hole that sticks out for me is being asked to fetch a salad for someone from M&S. They didn't have the salad, so I rang the office and asked his assistant what I should get instead. I returned and brought up the salad to the guy. When I was clearing up after, I saw that the salad was barely touched. The guy, seeing me pick it up, came over and said, "Did you bring me this salad? Intern, listen, what do I look like? I'm mediterranean! Bring me ham, or parmesan, or rocket. Not this."

Um...maybe you could try...I don't know...getting your own  lunch, if you must be so picky?

Many, many light years away from the Debretts Etiquette of New Internship.

And so, for the moment, I am happily toiling away in film-geekdome, still unpaid but less despairing to be so.

For the moment, that is.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

So Long, Farewell...

I am in a nostalgic mood today.

Yesterday was my last day at yet another internship, and I found myself leaving it with a strange mix of pleasure and disquiet.

It is always a good feeling to know that I am finally free from doing people's dirty work, getting up early and returning home late to the tune of £50 a week. Until the next one of course.

At the end of my more depressing internships, I tended to shoot out of the building with cries of "I'm free! I'm free!" as soon as I was out of earshot.

But even in places that have just been so-so, there is an odd feeling of sadness. Maybe it's just because I am particularly resistent to change. I get used to going to the same place every day, and seeing the same people. I am comfortable in a routine.

It is almost easy to fool yourself into thinking you actually work there, as you become familiar with the building, know where the loo is, start leaving pens and empty water bottles at your desk each night.

It's rather like that point in a relationship when it's ok to start leaving your Nivea face wipes in the bathroom.

And then suddenly, that's it. It's over. You are ousted from your seat and thrown out with the recycled paper.

And no matter how much you convince yourself that "this one was special," "this time it was different," in reality come Monday morning some other tart will be sitting in your desk and using your Nivea face wipes.

Or something.

Then there are the relationships you form with people. It seems like it's always in that last week of an internship that you really feel like you know the people there.

You think you have it made - "hey, these guys are my friends! We like each other! We have a Connection!"

But in actual fact you end the internship and really, what have you got?
Of course there are the cheerful promises to Keep In Touch. "Do write and let us know what you're doing!"

But come, isn't it just a bit weird to be sending bi-monthly updates?

[Cue overly-keen voice]

"Hey guys. How's it going? Watcha up to?"

The thing is, unlike a regular employee who has been there for a veritable length of time and is on the same level as them, the truth is you are not really friends with these people. You are just one link in a long chain of people who make up the job title known as Intern.

But still.
They gave me a card.
A card.
I've never been given a card from an internship before...
I shall clutch it to my breast, and remember the good times...

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

An Open Letter To Employers

Dear Various Employers Who Have Recently Contacted Me,

No, thank you very much, I would not like to come in for interview for an internship.

If you recall, in my previous email, I quite clearly and legibly stated that I am looking for graduate and/or entry level positions.

Do you see the word "internship" anywhere in that phrase?

No, neither do I.

Now, maybe there has been a misunderstanding.

Maybe in these recent times, the word "graduate" immediately suggests to you "desperate young person willing to work for no pay."

Perhaps you (wrongly) assume that graduate positions and internships have somehow become conflated, and that it is no longer possible to get a job until you have been interning long enough to require a zimmer frame.

But no, this does not mean I am eternally grateful to you for fobbing off my request for a job with the offer of unpaid slavery.

It is rather like opening a box of Laduree macaroons to find that they have been replaced with KFC popcorn chicken.

Greasy, and smelling slightly of cheap labour.

Find someone else to make your tea.

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