The Intern at the Christmas Party

When you’re an unpaid intern, perks of the job are few and far between. A wage is pretty much the only perk you have in mind. 

But when my three-month internship at a glossy lifestyle magazine recently ended without a job offer (merry bloody Christmas), I decided my dignity had been sufficiently battered and consequently I had nothing more to lose by accepting an invitation to the company’s Christmas party. 

Whether my boss invited me out of guilt (sorry we made you work full time in a job we could have paid someone much less gullible than you to do), or because they didn’t think I’d accept it (you’re just one of a thousand futile faces we’ll see come and go here), I’ll never know. The important thing was that the party would be at a swish London nightclub with copious amounts of free, that’s right free, alcohol. So even though they couldn’t/wouldn’t employ me, they at least had the common courtesy to get me smashed enough to forget the last three months of slave labour.

Needless to say, the office Christmas party is usually a scandalous affair where bladdered fifty year old managers try to snog the secretary, some “joker” finally discovers what his genitalia looks like photocopied twenty times, and sometimes where (god-forbid) people try to network. 

what a joker

Not me. I was quite content drinking my hopes of a media career away into a dark puddle of regret, disappointment and ultimately, vomit. There I was, not an official employee nor a complete civilian, but that shadowy intermediary figure, the intern; a person everyone secretly envies for your freedom, but disregards because of inexperience.

But don’t get me wrong I actually liked these people. Really I did. A few even added me on Facebook, which is meaningful in itself, right? The problem was that I could never quite break the barrier of feeling like or being seen as the unpaid intern. For instance take networking. For media types, a career chat with an intern is pretty futile. It’s like networking downwards. It obviously makes much more sense to talk and bond with co-workers they know will definitely be there in three months. A lot did make the effort, but it didn’t help all the tasks given to me involved absolutely no interaction whatsoever with anyone else in the office. They made sure I never had to leave my computer.

Also don’t forget this is in media, where so many employees are clinging on for dear life to the career ladder, they’d rather eat glass than help an intern further up the rungs to increase the already immense strain on a shrinking job market. Some would actually prefer it if you jumped off altogether and became a teacher or something.

But I won’t. Not just yet anyway. The whole experience taught me that as an intern, you really have to fight, not just to be heard, but to be noticed. Then you can leapfrog all the desperate clingers-on that won’t give you a second look in the office. Failing that, exploit any and all perks available to you to the max. Just never get drunk and voice all these repressed frustrations to your boss…

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