POSTCARD: Overcoming the Intern Rat Race

BOSTON, MA-For anyone working in an office this summer, there is arguably nothing worse than to walk in and see “that guy” in the cubicle next to yours. He shows up an hour earlier than everyone else, and puts in the late-night hours even when it is completely unnecessary. He’ll likely spend more time dropping by your boss’s office than seems within reason, and will promptly seize any and all opportunities to impress the other full-time co-workers—especially all those who have the power to make job offers. Though the most eager of temp employees, they undoubtedly leave a sour taste in the mouths of their co-workers who uncomfortably witness their charades and daily dog-and-pony shows. It quickly becomes far too obvious that this guy comes to work everyday just to secure a full-time offer for the year after.

While some regard summer internships as an extended interview, to treat them purely as an opportunity for networking forgoes the otherwise valuable opportunity they provide to gain insight into a company’s inner workings and culture.  The glamorous perquisites and MD Happy Hours of the summer will only trickle to the true day-to-day monotony of a 90-hour, unforgiving, pitch-book job should one sign in the fall. And so, every second spent kissing up is one less evaluating work culture and job responsibilities so as to avoid taking a job you might ultimately find hateful. To be clear, obviously execute the tasks and projects assigned to you whole-heartedly,but remain willing to critically challenge and defy workplace convention, as a summer job is one of few opportunities to do so.

A temporary summer intern is empowered with the important mission of providing outside evaluation and judgment for the company, from a mind and eye untainted with the often immoral norms engrained into office culture. They may be wrongful business practices by management, to which the employees turn a blind eye, sexual harassment or discrimination,  or an intricate web of office politics. Among those full-time, these processes gain momentum, permeating rank and propagating over time. Any mitigation to such behavior is often quickly crushed In order to fit in, new employees, who could bring a fresh perspective the work place, are instead forced to adopt bad practices to impress management and to remain in line.

Furthermore, in most offices, institutional barriers prevent first-year hires from challenging these established office norms. When hired, the office throws new employees directly into the deep-end, forcing them to struggle to merely stay afloat. The hire’s objective is always “to catch up” and thus objections to managerial convention are efficiently skirted.. In the process of running to catch a train powering ahead at full-speed, there is never an opportunity left to ask why or where the train is even headed.

On the contrary, however, like a child, pure of office politics or moral corruption, outsiders to a firm are Corporate America’s internal whistleblowers and are supposed to provide a check to corruption and bad practices, ones accumulated with the disillusionment and cynicism of “old age” in office terms. Seasonal interns provide a firm with this rare opportunity for outside evaluation, one lost when myopic hopes of full-time offers come in the way. And so, ultimately, by pleasing a little less, we can learn a lot more.

Ashin D. Shah, a Crimson photographer, is an Applied Mathematics concentrator in Pforzhiemer house.

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