I came across a post on LinkedIn talking about the benefits of internships. The author argued that we should not complain about how internships can feel like indentured servitude and be grateful for the career growth opportunity. It made me recall my first internship experience in the corporate world.
While I was getting my MBA in grad school, I started an unpaid internship at a prominent influencer marketing agency and Multi-Channel Network-MCN. I was initially given office maintenance tasks and also worked on pitch decks and data analytics to identify the right creators for our campaigns.
Things took a turn when there was a regime change and my managers left the company. I was suddenly very vulnerable. The new management would ask “What does Wasif even do around the office?” I had no one to vouch for me.
My work started to change. I would still do creator research and work on pitch decks, however, I was also asked to clean the kitchen, stock the fridge, and throw out the trash. The few times the head of sales would acknowledge my existence, he would introduce me as “Wasif the intern who is willing to do whatever it takes.” This was a signal to the whole office that I was everyone’s indentured servant now. I was asked to do everything from picking up lunch and coffee to delivering a cake to creators celebrating 1 million subscribers.
So there I was a 25-year-old grad student so desperate to break into the industry that I was the office cleaning person, delivery guy, and creator research analyst. I thought that if I just put up with the bullshit, they would recognize my hard work and hire me one day…they didn’t. After telling me I was not a fit for the company, they tossed me a pity invite to the office holiday party and never followed up.
It was the first time in my life I experienced depression. I put in 110% and got nothing for it. I continued to work at the agency while I looked for other opportunities. Our office was in SoHo and after I would bring back $15 Sweet Green salads for the whole office, I would walk 10 blocks to the McDonalds in Chinatown for my $2 double cheeseburger. People love to shit on McDonalds but I never pile in. Although a double cheeseburger was never enough to fill me up, my time at McDonalds instilled a hunger in me that exists to this day.
Since that experience, I have had interns of my own. I always believed it was my duty as a manager to provide support and career guidance. Above all, it was my job to help my interns find full-time positions.
Interns are not indentured servants. They are not your cleaning and delivery person. They should not be throwing out your garbage.
I know my experience is not universal but that’s my story.
This is where I used to work as an intern and janitor…some of you might recognize it.
As always thank you for reading.