Cathedral of the Great Wide World - Guest Homilist - William Least-Heat Moon ~
Thursday, July 11, 2013
This Internship Is Teaching Me All About Not Making Money!
The workload is intense, and they're very demanding here. The editors have incredibly high standards, and not every unpaid worker is ready to meet them. Most give up within a couple of days.
"This is not just a job - this is a passion," my supervisor told me. "This is for people who live to be in the new world of media. They don't mind working late to be the first to post on a major story. They don't mind lying about their age to stay on their parents' health insurance. Maybe even collecting some cans on weekends."
"This is also not just a job, because we're not paying you," he added. And I can't sleep in the room with the coffee pot, or steal condiment packets - they've had a problem with that, and they're cracking down.
I never forgot those lessons. They inspired me to throw myself into this. And when the company cut a third of the staff, it totally paid off. They gave me new responsibilities - writing, editing, finding content we can run for free, and finding new ways we can use Kickstarter. And the benefits are pretty solid. I have internet and access to social media practically all the time. It's mandatory, actually, but that's fine with me, because I don't have anything else to do. Plus, we get a lot of music, movies, and gift baskets, unless the owner sees something he wants. Most importantly, I'm gaining real world skills - interviewing techniques, line editing, different ways to cook ramen, and basic food service for when the owner caters at his home in Connecticut.
People say this setup is unfair. But I'm gaining so much. Media companies like this one are at the front of the modern wage-free way of doing things. Other industries are learning the practices we're pioneering right here at our half-cubicle workstations! Someday the most common career track will be to start with an unpaid internship, move to two or three part time jobs, and then transition to freelance piecework, before finally landing the staff position that lasts until they liquidate the company. And then you'd start again, but you'll be so much smarter about it. Unless you're an owner. I have no idea what they do, because I've never asked ours. We're not even supposed to look him directly in the eye.
Anyway, it's our generation. Our time to change the world. Working for no money is just how we do things today.
Soon it will be like this everywhere.