Uphill Both Ways

Oh, the plight of the wannabe interns.

The government wants to protect them from exploitation. (A grand gesture, as wasted the youth as, well, youth is.)

Companies just want to give the kids a rich and fulfilling educational experience that doesn’t benefit the company in any way. Because companies always operate with the best interests of their lowest-paid (or no-est-paid) workers in mind. According to John Stossel.

I had two internships during my academic career, and I got both of them the old-fashioned way—100% because I knew someone who had the clout to make them happen. The first, at a white shoe Wall Street law firm, taught me that corporate law was not quite the boondoggle my childhood self had believed it to be.

True, we periodically ordered lobster or shopped at The Gap and billed it to the client (true! it happened!), but no lobster is worth managing the night shift of the word processing pool for an SEC filing.

The second, at a federal district court, taught me that I’d already used up my lifetime limit for working with lawyers on a daily basis.

[Let me be clear that the judge and his staff were amazing, allowing me to do substantive work, encouraging my questions, and pardoning my inexperience. Even with the whole Oompa Loompa incident, I count the experience as the high point of my legal career.]

Looking for an internship? Let me tell you about the best on I had.

I washed dishes at an upscale Italian restaurant during college. I was paid. I learned not only how to wash dishes, but to pull beards from mussels, mop floors, and unfreeze a padlock on a dumpster in sub-zero temperatures without getting frostbite or pneumonia.

I was offered the chance to bus or even wait tables, but I wasn’t ready for front-of-house work. I liked the kitchen. The work was demanding, but not hard. Something was either clean or it wasn’t. No job since has offered me that kind of clarity.

Add my voice to the chorus advising young people fortunate enough to get the gift (or earn the gift) of a college education that everyone should wait tables, work in a retail job, or work on a construction crew. You’ll never be sorry, and unless you are a total spoiled brat, you’ll benefit in untold ways.

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3 Responses to Uphill Both Ways

  1. Brittanie says:

    Are you on Goodreads? I just wrote almost the exact same thing in my review of Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. We should “friend” each other.

  2. Brittanie says:

    Yay!

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