Made a new friend at work the other night. He was very well dressed, and strolled in bragging about the East Coast. I knew immediately that we would be friends.
Upon further conversation, we discovered that we were both from North Carolina, that his family lived in Salisbury, and that his father was also called Jesse. When I asked him what in the world he was doing in Seattle, he proclaimed, “why, teaching these west coast folk some mother fucking social skills.”
I just about keeled over.
Where are all the flamboyant Southerners? They’ve been quashed under the wheels of the tech bro and the too-cool townie. This fellow is paving the way for the rest of us.
I’ve learned some valuable things in the past few weeks. The most resounding of these is that the immense value that I place on communication does not seem to be valued equally by other people. While acquaintance-social relationships can thrive on the abandonment of serious emotional conversations–and are often actually a relief for those of us prone to “processing”–workplace-management relationships cannot function without clarity and assertiveness.
Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about assertive communication–I have conducted professional development about its importance for goodness sake!–but you may not know how I feel about unassertive communication. I am trying to be better about offering my unsolicited advice to everyone–even when I know for a fact that my advice would be beneficial; I have found that most folks don’t want to learn anything new or question their own methods. Thus, I’ve backed off. But I have learned that I can still be made to suffer for someone else’s lack of communication skills.
Enter: the internship. Now defunct. Thank goodness. There were so many problems:
- Me being overqualified beyond belief; qualified past the point of every staff member there, including the CEO
- Misunderstandings regarding content and expectations of the internship, e.g. a start-up is not the same as a mini-wannabe-corporation
- Misunderstandings about what communication means; buying folks coffee once a month to ask how things are going and then rushing back to the computer does not foster straightforwardness
- Sheer boredom
I could go on. Needless to say, my creative and critical approach to–you know–everything was being sufficiently stifled to where I was exhausted, miserable, and regularly sick. (Maybe you Western medicine junkies haven’t heard of this, but fatigue, illness, and pain are all results of stress. Horrific, sitting-at-a-desk-all-day-for-below-minimum-wage stress.)
Oh I forgot that part!
5. Money. Or the lack thereof. I put in as much work as $7.50/hr earns from me; which is to say, not much.
So, lessons learned:
- If you’re qualified to not be an intern, don’t be an intern. Actually, even if you’re not qualified for entry-level, don’t be an intern. Do your own thing: start a cooking blog, volunteer for a free tutoring service, research topics that get you all hot and bothered and write articles about them. Put these things on your resume; your self-motivation speaks more about your abilities than your proficiency at sitting at a desk answering phones in business-casual and learning how to use the office Keurig.
- Don’t believe what they tell you. I signed up for this internship long before I got to Seattle, and when I arrived–womp womp–I was cooler than everyone by a billion light years. They had no interest in developing their skills; they encouraged dumbness and placidity rather than fiery rapport; they had no sense of humor and only talked about what chain fast food places they liked (this was the biggest red alert ever).
- If you’re stuck, find an ally. I have neglected talking about the one person in the tiny office whose attitude I liked–partially anyway. They were at least open to jokes and, you know, fun. This helped the days be a little bit less draining.
I’m very lucky to be out of that situation; it’s difficult for me to leave any job that pays me. I do not have the luxury of financial support from a third party, and I must work to pay for my apartment and internet (not optional!). However, the opportunity cost of working at a job that made me into a miserable wretch was simply not worth it.
I’m very lucky to have a partner who will enthusiastically pay for groceries and my bus fare while I piece things together. After leaving the internship for the final time, I promptly sauntered into the office of the tutoring coordinator at the community college behind my apartment and secured a part-time writing consultant position there.
Since then, I have had several successful interviews and am lucky enough that I can afford to be a bit picky and not accept the awkward Amazon customer service rep job that I have been recruited for. (Thank goodness.)