As an English major, I had always been told that post-college job opportunities barely existed, so I decided to get ahead of the curve. One night, I crashed a networking event designed for business majors, appropriately clad in business attire complete with the most uncomfortable heels imaginable. I chatted with a few vendors, all of whom demonstrated interest in my skills as a writer, hoping to direct my talent towards their advertising or marketing ventures.
My skill as a writer, though, would introduce me to one of the most uncomfortable internship experiences I have encountered.
One particular business, a modern, millennial-run startup that provides luxury properties for vacations, believed I’d fit perfectly into their team. We exchanged emails, and I quickly sent them my resume and cover letter, eager to simply gain work experience. They invited me for an interview for an unpaid marketing internship that would surely bring me incredible professional experience, so I accepted.
On the day of the interview, I arrived at an incredibly confusing building and after about 15 minutes of frantically searching for the company’s location, I finally arrived. I stood awkwardly alone, not greeted by any employee, in what looked like a studio apartment trying to act as a legitimate business. The room, decorated with high end decor, boasted accoutrements including an excessive amount of tiny chandeliers, numerous barstools with a faux rustic look, and a granite countertop in the open break area.
A scruffy man dressed in an overly tight gray t-shirt and loose pants that he definitely bought off an overpriced online boutique eventually greeted me for my interview. He led me into a back room with walls made up of whiteboards and windows, and one of his coworkers joined him for our interview. During the interview, they asked me to do financial analysis on my favorite restaurant, which I proved incredibly underprepared for considering I had neither taken a business class, nor had I taken a math class in close to two years. The entire time I answered questions on the oversized whiteboards, the scruffy man stood with his arms crossed and his brows furrowed, as his coworker sat slouched, looking as if she’d just smelled something rotten. Any joke or remark I made in attempts to lighten the tension fell flat, as both the scruffy man and the woman gave me blank stares, which only brought me more discomfort.
The duo also asked me to edit various descriptions of luxury properties, which I felt more comfortable with considering my background in writing. Even so, I felt a nagging from within questioning what value this internship writing descriptions of luxury properties would bring to the world. Though this interview felt tremendously impersonal, overwhelming and uncomfortable, the employees asked me back for a trial day, which I accepted.
A few days later, I arrived at the startup for my trial day. The employees assigned me about 20 luxury properties to write on for their website. They shuffled me into a room with one other intern, which became incredibly awkward as the intern and the employees had established a rapport based on things I could not relate to. The scruffy man that interviewed me bragged about how many drugs he took at Coachella, while the intern at my right complained about how much money he just blew on tickets to the next overrated music festival. All the while, the girl who helped interview me sat with that same disgusted look plastered on her face.
At one point, I asked the employees where I could fill up my water. I needed a refreshing drink to calm me down. While certainly privileged in some respects, I related more to the struggles of poor college students like myself than with the “rich people problems” I heard described in the intern room. The woman I’d work with most led me to the water fountain as I clutched my cheap water bottle from Costco. “Actually, we also have kombucha on tap if you want!” my superior offered.
The nagging voice I felt during my interview returned. At that moment, I knew I could not continue this internship. Kombucha tastes great at times, but as a treat. My idea of luxury equated to their idea of necessity. My values of education, hard work and authenticity did not match the values of money, luxury and self-centeredness I saw in them. Sure, it might look impressive on a future resume that I worked at a bougie startup chock full of signs of excess. However, I simply could not identify with the company or the people working there. Maybe my inner communist emerged, but it felt wrong to work somewhere that helped incredibly privileged people find luxury properties on their next multi-million dollar vacation and had multiple flavors of kombucha flowing endlessly, yet did not pay their interns in need.
This internship would not contribute to the betterment of society, solve any greater problem or add my growth as a person. It would not help anyone, but rather would strengthen the culture of excess I so despised. I realized that I only felt comfortable taking jobs that help other people and contribute to the greater good.
Needless to say, after my first day as an intern, I quit. Instead, I took a job tutoring K-12 students, which aligns perfectly with my values, especially considering my passion for education. I’ve also made good friends with my coworkers and feel comfortable and happy while working. Who needs kombucha on tap when you look forward to going to work every day?