We’ve seen a truckload of movies featuring a hapless intern (often from a quiet community in the abstract and ambiguous Midwest) going to the big city trying to break into: The financial, music, modeling, fashion or publishing industry. What they are put through is akin to the terrifying version of boot camp portrayed in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece ’Full Metal Jacket’ (if you haven’t watched the movie then shame on you).
The truth is dark too, because after all the indignation, menial tasks, and errant-running; unpaid interns only see a 1% advantage over people that didn’t engage in any form of unpaid labor/torment. Here are some internship horror stories that are gorier than a Tarantino Movie.
See Also: Just Act Smarter, You’ll Be Fine
Oh, The Horror!
Just so you don’t think I was being superfluous in the intro, this first story includes blood sucking parasites and an excess of bodily fluids (no, it has nothing to do with lawyers). An intern was given a tick that she had extracted from beneath her boss’s skin to take to the doctor to be tested for Lyme disease. When the doctor asked the intern for a blood sample, the boss gave a second intern a bag of bloodied cotton balls to use. At least the interns were both driven to the medical center in town cars, because if you are going to transport dead parasites and your boss’s bodily fluids you might as well do it in style.
So think of the most awkward situation you have found yourself in with your boss. Standing silently in the coffee room waiting for the coffee to finish, making eye contact and gracelessly smiling and nodding in recognition? Crossing in the hallway and voice crackling while you say hello? Not even close.
This poor intern was taken on a business trip to California, which is fine, and her boss wanted to get some sun in the afternoon, which is still fine, so she asked her intern to join her for swimsuit shopping. Ok, getting a bit weird but still fine, forcing her to sit in the dressing room with the boss while she (the boss) tried on suits and asked the intern’s opinion…Yeah, that’s the personal touch that most companies probably would advertise during college campus recruitment campaigns.
No, this has nothing to do with fashionable open-back, high heeled shoes or the adorable four legged beast of burden. Yes, I’m talking about a drug mule. In two separate cases, interns were forced into the nefarious dealings of their higher ups. The first one was told to purchase marijuana for their “mentor.” The second was told to take an envelope filled with cash into a less than savory neighborhood and slip it under the door of a sketchy apartment. Both knew the dealings surrounding their errands were felonious, but the allure of a brighter future can coerces even the most ethical person to a life of crime.
NYC The city of broken interns
New York seems to have an unusually high concentration of intern meat-grinders. Ok, so maybe you can’t really call it unusual since New York is a global hub for the fashion, financial and media/advertising industries. This makes it a very competitive and cut-throat place that gathers people who will go to extraordinary lengths to penetrate these professions. A few things to consider though as an unpaid intern in NYC is that everything is extremely expensive including housing, transportation and food. And I reiterate, these are unpaid interns.
One such unpaid intern paid one hundred and twenty dollars of her own money to run a fool’s errand. So, this intern’s boss told her to get an interview with Tara Banks who would be speaking at a school that was a sixty dollar cab ride away. Without her boss contacting Banks’ publicist or the organizer of the event, to get her time to speak with Tyra, the intern set off. Upon arriving, she was unable to even get a word in because the school’s journalism students got priority. Fearing her boss’s reaction she paid another 60 dollars and returned to her office. When she arrived, her boss said that expected that the intern wouldn’t get time to speak with Tyra Banks, but the boss wanted her to have that experience anyway. A fruitless experience that cost a broke intern 120 dollars; don’t you wish all bosses were so considerate and generous?
The Shark Tank
An enthusiastic young intern took to the U.S. Capital for job experience. She found work at a hyper competitive shark tank, where cannibalism was not only the standard, it was the office culture. When I say cannibalism I mean in a professional sense. People being thrown under the bus, backstabbed and betrayed as part of the office camaraderie, but our sweet as syrup, unpaid assistant was working with a jovial, pleasant mentor. They were working on a case, doing research and creating parallel presentations, which were locked up together at the end of the day.
The older exec was constantly referencing the interns work, giving it great reviews and compliments. On the day the duo were to present their respective work, the intern’s work was gone. After her boss put her on the spot in front of the board asking where her presentation was, she leaned in and whispered “Don’t take it personally” with a condescending “Sweety”.
Ok, so as bad as bosses are to interns, you can get some pretty bad interns too. I mean they’re not getting paid, and if they realize that their time served isn’t going to help them well, that’s a recipe for less than professional conduct. The most infamous intern related calamity was none other than Monica Lewinski, which managed to get the president of the United States impeached. OK, it definitely takes two to tango and engage in questionable usage of tobacco products, but she certainly had a hand and a say in Slick Willy getting the boot.
What is your worst internship horror story? Let me know in the comment section below.