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.)