You need experience to get experience, but it’s looking a lot like bitch-work.
I’m a strong believer in paying your dues – that hard work and patience make a great foundation for leaving your mark on the ‘career path’. While I’ve always taken hard work and patience into my own hands, whether that being joining relevant clubs and coursework in college or creating a blog that focused on my interests in fashion and entertainment, more often than not, my efforts were placed in the hands of some one else. That’s right, I’m talking about my internship journey. This is no novice concept, but companies expect you to already have experience to get experience. And no matter how stupid that sounds (especially when you say it aloud), it’s just what I, and many other people in my position have had to do to make even the smallest, baby step forward in their industry of choice.
I graduated from college almost two months ago, and I have embarked on this career journey, to score a job in fashion or entertainment journalism. I know, I picked an incredibly competitive industry to go into, but I can’t help what I love. Beginning my senior year, I was so sure that things would work out for me and I would land a job fresh out. In my last weeks as an undergraduate however, my point of view quickly changed. I hadn’t landed my dream job. I had even landed a job at all. I managed to get some interviews or email responses, but I never fully had the veteran experience they were looking for. I needed more experience.
Amidst the tears, I persevered, applying to anything that was worthwhile. But still, no luck. Rounding the one-month mark after graduation, I decided to add internships to my application list, and stumbled upon one listing on Craigslist, which by the way, is a great source for anyone on a serious job hunt. I quickly emailed my resume and a stellar cover letter to the address listed and got a response a couple days later. I had landed another interview. My interview was the following week, which I must have knocked out of the park because she hired me the day after. I was ecstatic. It wasn’t paid and it wasn’t Vogue, but it was a fashion magazine in New York City, and guess what? It was experience. I began the internship two weeks later.
The magazine, which I will keep anonymous (because I think it’s bad taste to name names), was anything short from a fairytale. I’d like to go back to the part when I mentioned that I graduated to college. I’m not trying to brag or by any means state that you can’t make it in life if you don’t have a degree. There are plenty of people who have been just fine without one, but I do think there is a certain degree of knowledge that you gain from going to college- both academically and in common sense. So I mention my degree again, in reference to some of the responsibilities I managed during my internship.
In my head: Bitch, what the fuck do I look like?
My first week, along with learning the tricks and trades of the magazine, such as how the digital site worked and things like that, I was asked to walk my boss’s dog. I was asked to walk her dog. Pause for dramatic effect.
It was a busy day in the office, and since I was still new, I didn’t have as much responsibility as some of the other interns. Her dog, this ugly, fat dog, was barking up a storm while every one was trying to work. He was relentless. My boss yelled down to me (I wasn’t good enough to sit on the same floor as her just yet) to come up stairs. She asked me if I could walk her dog.
In my head: Bitch, what the fuck do I look like? What I said, “Sure!” I quickly grabbed the dog, its fur scratching against my bare arm. I took the leash off the door and proceeded to walk around the block until it did its business. Many people passed me on my dog walking adventure, including another intern who was on the way to handle real business. I knew no one was judging me or laughing, but I felt like shit. I was all for making copies, going out on errands around the city, getting coffee even. But I drew the line, in my head of course, at walking a weird-looking dog that wasn’t mine.
I entered careers in dog-walking, pencil sharpening, water-bottle filling, and many more fabulous fields I never dreamed about.
I had said yes because I was always told that an intern should be a “yes-slut”. No matter the task, I was to always say yes, which showed the staff that I was there to work hard. While I wanted to prove my worth to my boss, I couldn’t help but feel like I was a little better than walking a fucking dog! I attended college for magazine journalism and I expected this editorial internship to be just that. I wanted to practice writing articles, doing research, or transcribing interview.
Our dog-walk quickly came to an end after the little thing dropped a couple pellets on the side walk, to which I looked the other way and quickly walked back to the office. From that day on, I entered careers in dog-walking, pencil sharpening, water-bottle filling, and many more fabulous fields I never dreamed about. And to think, I experienced all of these careers at one, editorial internship.
There are far worse horror stories than mine, and I’m not saying that I didn’t learn anything valuable from my internship. In fact, I learned a lot about photo research, magazine production, and fashion shoots. I guess I can’t complain too much in that respect. However, I find it funny that many places like my internship ask you to come in with experience to then do bitch work. It seemed like I gained that desired experience only after my boss grew fond of me (slightly). That took me two weeks, but it might take some longer.
As a recent graduate, I knew it would be hard, tedious, and involve a load of tasks that didn’t take a degree to figure out. But knowing what I am capable of and having a cultivated skill, I had to wonder: was I better than walking a dog?