August 4, 2011

An Intern Abroad — in Ad Land

not just a photocopying internship

This was not another typical internship.

Nine different brands of chips, four types of M&Ms, six different kinds of granola bars, a few bottles of wine and an unlimited supple of coffee. A college kid’s kitchen? No — the kitchen at AB&C.

The grocery bill for AB&C has to be outrageous. The kitchen is stocked with a ridiculous supply of snacks, fueling the creative and business drive of nearly 70 people who seem unable to let go of their college days. That would explain the chalkboard wall, a Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots game, a skateboard and overlarge magnetic letters in the second floor meeting room. It’s not the décor a new intern might expect.

They must have skipped over interns when they were drafting the Industrial Revolution reform laws. Never mind that I’ve earned a high school diploma and an international baccalaureate (don’t bother), and I’m working on a college degree. Unless I’m willing to settle for a career as a pump jockey, I have to intern. That means giving up the three months out of the year that I can either chill at home or work for some real money. And have my internships so far prepared me for “real world experience”? Sure, if all I ever hope to do is prepare spreadsheets on a computer nearly as old as me or run to a copier every five minutes.

But a glimmer of hope came in my first email from my boss at AB&C. He told me I could start my new job one of two ways: get my feet wet slowly or jump in headfirst. Apparently I was going to be jumping in headfirst.

My first day was a complete shocker. It started with a traffic meeting, where I was introduced — to the whole company. What could’ve been a total snooze turned out to be a fairly lively, laugh-filled event, with plenty of wisecracks to dispel the tedium. Then my boss said I was ready to work. I expected to be stuck with some mind-numbing tasks. But by the end of the week I was deeply involved in a project for a local pizza chain and learning about the coolest new PowerPoint technology. (Prezi. Look it up.) It’s every college kid’s dream job. It happens to be mine. No longer chained to a copier, I actually look forward to go to work. Finally, I get to use my brain. I’m getting that real-world experience that prospective employers are looking for. And so much more — I went on a photo shoot, just to observe. But when I got there I was told my modeling career was about to start. After running home to grab my glasses, I got into costume as a doctor. Now I’m going to appear in a catalogue. I really don’t think many interns can say that about their summer job. From video shoots with free pizza, to ice cream–filled meetings, to being encouraged to give my snarky opinion, this gig is fun. Go figure.

When I tell people I work at AB&C they usually say I have an amazing job. I no longer have to do busywork; I’m really a part of the team. Kinda shocking how grownup that sounds. And while all this great “real world experience” may be preparing me for a job at some other company, I don’t know how I’m gonna top four flavors of chewy bars and a box filled with Twizzlers at work daily.

Maybe they’ll let me hang around….