Intern Diaries: Stop Treating Me Like Crap!

For most college students, summer means one thing: an unpaid internship. We’ve been there and we feel your pain. Whether you’re making copies, making coffee runs, or just trying to make your mark on the industry of your dreams, it’s much easier to get through it all with a little help from your (CollegeCandy) friends. So come back every week to listen/sympathize with/vent with our anonymous intern as she does her thang at a big time magazine in New York City. Because let’s be honest, what else do you have to do in that cubicle all day?

Everyone knows that one of the worst things about being an intern is actually telling people you’re an intern. I can deal with getting coffee, fetching elaborate lunches in the rain, sending out mail and transcribing interviews for hours, all in the name of trying to get a job. I cannot, however, deal with being treated like sh*t just because some people choose to view me as just the bottom of the job food chain and nothing more than that.

I’m not saying that everyone treats interns like that, because that’s definitely not true. I’ve been extremely lucky to work with intern coordinators who are truly awesome – they listen, they care, they’re nice, and most importantly, they always say thank you. But there are still some people who insist on treating me, and other interns, as only their bitch. And I mean, let’s face it, we kind of are their bitch as interns – but that still doesn’t mean we should be treated like that.

The weird thing is, it’s usually the people you would least expect who are the rudest. When I first started covering events, I was terrified. I thought for sure that not only the celebrities were going to blow me off, but also that the PR girls would take one look at me and figure out I had no idea what I was doing. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The PR girls consistently treat me with respect, and did anything they could to help me out. And the celebs? Most of them couldn’t be nicer. Just the other night, I had the chance to interview Emmy Rossum and Bernadette Peters, and both of them were so sweet it was unbelievable.

So who are the rudest people? I’ve found that the bitchiest and most annoying people to work with are the ones who literally JUST started their job. Like one of the interns I worked with over the winter who now has a paying job at my magazine. We were so close when we were both interns; we spent long hours doing crap projects together and really bonded over our shared dream of one day working for this very magazine. So when he got hired, I was proud and excited for him. That is until he stopped speaking to the other interns. I see him around hte office every day and he ignores me like he doesn’t know who I am.

And then, while huddled over my computer transcribing yet another interview recently, I overheard another former intern I used to work with say, “All of the new interns keep introducing themselves to me trying to network. Do I care? No. I couldn’t remember their names if I tried.”

I just don’t get it. I would have thought, since they were just in my shoes, these people would understand an intern’s position the most. That they’d be the most empathetic to our situation. And – come on – a few months ago they were not just my peers, but my friends. And now look at them. I get it – they must have done something right to get a job in such a tough market. But why does that mean that they can treat everyone else like they’re below you?



  1. Mila says:

    I feel this should read "For college students who don't have to work to afford school, summer means one thing: an unpaid internship."

    Because it's nearly impossible to work an unpaid internship without some money coming from your parents. Unless you are using leftover financial aid (which would violate the terms of your contract).

    In short, unpaid internships give rich kids the upper hand AND take advantage of kids.

    Makes me sick.

  2. Anna says:

    I'm in total agreement with Mila. I don't know about you, but summer to me means one thing: saving money to pay off my student loan debt. I'm doing my best to find paying jobs that relate to my major, but right now I'm stuck working as a waitress because I can't afford this luxury.

  3. Jennifer says:

    I've got to disagree that unpaid internships are only for college who don't have to work to afford school. During my last semester of school, I had an unpaid internship about 1.5 hours away from my university and was there 20 hours a week (driving back and forth everyday), and then I worked another 20+ hours at my part-time job every weekend. My parents barely gave me any money (except for $20 once or twice a month for gas). I would add that I was living with my parents, but they have never been able to give me money for school (25K in loans that I'm already working on paying back). And now that I've graduated, I'm still applying for internships (and still looking at a long drive to all of them).

    Back to the article now that I've gotten that off my chest…I'm so glad that I never got treated like crap during my internship. I did a social media/public relations internship at a non-profit, and I always felt like part of the team. If I had to deal with people who were just in my shoes (especially if I had worked with them) and they acted like that towards me, I would not be a happy intern.

  4. L says:

    Yeah I agree with Jennifer. I have an unpaid internship in NYC and I can't speak for the other interns- but I'm living and eating here all on my own dime, which I've been saving up since I started working at 16. A lot of kids have a 1 to 2 hour commute into the city since they're saving money by living outside of it.

    And all my coworkers are really nice- I'm sorry that this author is having to deal with some pretentious a-holes.

  5. Jessica says:

    It's possible for ANYONE to have an unpaid internship, as long as you're willing to work for it. I have an internship and I constantly work at my part-time job. It's hard and a lot of work, but it's something I'm willing to do. If you're not willing to work for it, that's your own problem. Although I will agree that it is slightly more advantageous for wealthier people, it's absolutely not true that those people are the only ones who can do it. I think that's kind of a lame argument.

  6. M says:

    I definitely don't think that internships are just for "rich" kids. I have an unpaid internship this summer with over two hours of commuting there and back. I've worked summer jobs since I was 14 and I work during the school year when I'm at college.

    Although it completely sucks not making money, you are faced with a choice either to make money or to gain valuable experience because it is really difficult to find a summer position that can offer both.

    I think it's ridiculous to state that internships are just for rich kids.

  7. bri says:

    I as well have an unpaid internship at a nonprofit mental health clinic. I intern during the day, and then work part time as a waitress on nights and weekends. It's tough, but it can be done, and I do it with hope that it will all pay off in the end.

  8. Tamara says:

    Saying "Unpaid internships are only for rich kids" is probably too much. Still, I do believe unpaid internships reinforce class differences among students from different economic backgrounds. It might be possible to work for free and have another job that pays the bills, but it's definitely not easy. What if you can't make your schedule work? I'm not from the USA but I know what the economy is like there now; I'm sure there are not a million job offers to suit every possible schedule. Even if you can find a job, why should earning work experience be harder for you just because you aren't as lucky as some "rich kid"? I know this is part of a bigger problem, but unpaid internships reinforce it.

  9. Mila says:

    Yes, I was obviously exaggerating. I never said, "Only rich kids take unpaid internships." Props to you guys who manage to work enough to be able to support yourselves while also working an unpaid job! You are obviously highly capable individuals.

    What Tamara said is what I meant. Unpaid internships are just another way that the divide between the wealthy and the working class grows larger in this nation. It's not fair to the kids who can't afford them, and it's certainly abusive to some kids who are working at companies that take advantage of them.

    Work experience should come from entry-level jobs, paid internships, and from volunteer positions (at not-for-profits). I think it should be illegal to not pay those working for your company, period. Interns should be paid minimum wage. And if "anonymous" is being treated so poorly at her internship, she should have a venue to discuss that with her employers (probably easier to do if she was considered a real employee). I feel very sorry for her!

  10. Miriam says:

    Agreed with Mila. That, and the getting treated like crap aspect, is one major reason I'm switching my career plans from journalism, which requires a ton of unpaid crappy internships, to psychology, which requires research experience.

  11. Mila says:

    NY Times: Is your unpaid internship legal?

    They say there are very few situations in which interning, unpaid, for a for-profit company is legal. It is several months old, but check it out.

  12. Mary Kate says:

    This has already been established, but an unpaid internship is not just for "rich kids." And second, what is wrong with a kid being supported by their parents while they work an unpaid internship? If the parents can afford it, and their child is working hard, getting good work experience, and networking in their field I really don't see a problem. There is nothing wrong with having money or not having money.

  13. Jessica - Hofstra says:

    Yeah, I agree with Mary Kate's comment. There shouldn't be such a huge deal about parents helping out their kids so they can have a great opportunity. It really sucks that it can't happen for everyone, but that's just the way it is, and it's not our fault.

  14. […] mean, come on, after months of getting coffee, getting yelled at and being totally ignored by (some of) my superiors, let me have my moment of glory, will you? Sometimes it’s the only thing keeping me […]

  15. […] Don’t think that’s true? Just read the comments on almost any internship post on this site (like this one or this one). […]

  16. rufus says:

    I have been externing for over three months now. I've come across some outstanding people who want to teach me all they know; but unfortunately, I've also had a few who want to use me for a whipping post. Whatever tasks they despise will be the only learning experience I will get for the day. It's ridiculous that I have some people who don't know enough about the job training me in the medical field.

    I seriously do not understand the mental capacity of some who find complete pleasure in humiliating the ones who are so vulnerable. If I were employed at a couple of these places I would have walked out midshift.

  17. […] and lows, exciting moments of feeling like an actual journalist and those back-to-earth moments of feeling like the lowest person on the office food-chain. There have been frustrating moments when I’ve felt like I just want to walk out and never come […]

  18. iliketacos says:

    O and just so whoever said its a violation of your financial aid money to use it to pay for your internship its not. I work in my schools financial aid office and students get a refund check at the end of the semester of the amount that is not spent. do you know what that usualy goes to? since its a community college, there are alot of single parents or students living on their own. Now using it to pay for your childs christmas presents is wrong and telling me thats wat you are going to use it on, but its your money you didnt spend and you have the choice to do what you want with it. If you want to buy a new computer u can, if you want to use it to pay off loans you may but its your money thagt you have to pay back eventually. this is how my school works, it could be different at other places

  19. […] Don’t think that’s true? Just read the comments on almost any internship post on this site (like this one or this one). […]

  20. 6tel says:

    Hi dear. I understand each phrase of what you're feeling and agree to everything you tell. I've been there, and also have seen what you just perfectly describe. It is amazing how people who reach certain position seem to forget those who may have help them get the job, or those who simply made their way to comprehend the aspects of team working. And the worst part is when these people suddenly get switched to the bossing attitude and arrogancy. There's a great deal of "wannabism" (yes, there's an emerging yet informal word to that) which clearly states that these individuals may really have some sort of cognitive disorder pushing them to believe they are something (or somebody) they really are not. I guess it has got something to do with how fast they were promoted and not realizing that their "success" usually comes in a situation that is not directly attached to their so-self-vaunted talent but because of an external circumstance, usually a critical point in the organization they work at. Example: not finding or not wanting to hire an expert because of how much it costs, and therefore promoting someone young and unexperienced to cover the same job but at a less compromising salary. And jobs related to media, broadcasting, journalism, marketing, advertising and the like tend specially to repeat this pattern all over the world. So don't despair, and just analyze, laugh, make fun at those wannabes who pretend to eat others with their "geniuses". In Venezuela we have lots of names to call'em, e.g: "los recién llegados", "los recién bañados", "los recién vestidos"… ;)

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