Intern Olympics – exploiting naïveté for course credit
It’s that time of year again, for those of us in the media game – intern season. Time to bag some shiny, brand-spanking-new interns to replace the used-up, gnarly ones that have suffered the corrosive powers of capitalism while “working” for despots like me. And by “despots” I mean entrepreneurs, lauded for economy-boosting “job creation” while actually exploiting the naïveté of teenagers who thought they’d slum it in media for course credit.
As the fall semester winds down, the spring intern applications begin to trickle in. Ahh, there is nothing like a semester of sublime sadism to systematically replace youthful arrogance with anxiety and regret. You see, an internship is not an apprenticeship. Apprentices actually learn something, like carpentry. Or sorcery. I can guarantee my interns will learn little more than how to cork a bottle and wash my car. For this, I grant as many credits as they wish. To me, credits are as worthless as Monopoly money, which at least has inherent value to the game, whereas, in this sorry economy, a college diploma and a new grad’s resume are woeful wastes of wood pulp. They’re of better use mopping the flow from their parents’ bank accounts than actually scoring a job. And an internship, remember, is not a job. It’s a gateway drug to a life of received notions of success drenched in masochism.
In some countries, a tradition of raising competent employees persists. In Germany, for example, they have a journeyman tradition that dates back to the Middle Ages. And they have wacky costumes to boot. Traditional journeyman garb consists of a broad-brimmed black hat, or a top hat if one prefers, black bell-bottoms and a “stenz,” or curled walking stick. The look is finished with a gold earring and bangles, which might lead one to believe the journeyman can either ply their trade (usually carpentry) or join your band. This is apropos since they’re said to be “on the waltz” while journeying, as it were, through the Teutonic countryside.
Yes, I’d rather my interns dressed in top hats and bell-bottoms than hoodies and flip-flops. And, yes, I’d rather they didn’t speak in, like, declarative interrogatives? But you get what you pay for. Still, I’m circumspect when conducting intern interviews. Here are some red flags that I endeavor to turn into checkered flags so as to better match the past of their future employer:
When a prospective intern says they’re “good at multitasking,” this is code for “I have ADD.” After a long, hard stare they generally offer up their Adderall prescription, which gets them hired on the spot. Not only does this prove that they’re willing to share, it also increases their relative street value.
If a would-be intern says, “I’m a team player,” this refracts in my prismatic mind as “I’ll take one for the team ... And do all the work.” If they’re a “team playa,” that means (red flag) they plan to have sex with the team. If they follow up on this with “hate the game, not the playa,” I remind them that anyone who repeats such a shallow aphorism has as much depth as the tattoo on their lower back.
As an intern, you’re not just being asked to work for slave wages, which is to say nothing, you’re also being asked to sell out your generation. At heart, most media businesses have no idea what’s going on in terms of youth culture. Our interns are extremely valuable in this regard as they provide insight we’d otherwise have to pay a marketing firm to attain. And since all media companies are ultimately just marketing companies anyway, why be redundant?
And speaking of redundancy, bring a friend or two when you apply – chances are we’ll burn you out in the first week and need a back up unit. Funny, that’s how I got my job.
To apply for a spring semester internship at FMRL, the Future Media Research Lab, email your 600 word essay “Why Daedalus Howell is so Frickin’ Brilliant” to email@example.com. Fair warning: You’re essay may be used for this column (and, yes, I’m keeping the fee, naturally).