Seeking: Poorly paid position as lackey.

(Back in high school, I did actually work on a printing press for a couple of years. Not one quite this old, though).

Yesterday I learned that my friend Shaun, a writer, writing teacher, editor, and director of a small independent press, is looking for a (paid!) intern. I tweeted out the information and then tweeted that I really wished I could take the position — but alas, it’s not to be. Shaun and his small independent press are located in London.

Being my friend for something like (hold on – doing the math) 25 years or so, Shaun (or his current intern – who can tell!) tweeted back “we wish we could be your intern!” Which, you know, was very nice and all, and I certainly wouldn’t mind an intern, or at least a personal assistant, BUT — but it occurred to me that Shaun probably didn’t realize how dead serious I was.

I would love to be his intern — well, maybe not his intern, as we’d never get anything done for all the talking, TV watching, and chocolate-covered-almonds-consuming we’d be doing (you see, we also used to be roommates, because once upon a time I needed a wee bit of saving and Shaun saved me) (I seem to be digressing a lot. I’ll stop that now) — but I would actually love to work 10-15 hours a week at a small, independent press.

And this got me thinking: I’d love to intern just about anywhere, really. As long as you paid me enough to buy my supper and I got to learn something I’d never done before. I recognize that this would likely come bundled with a lot of envelope-stuffing and coffee-purchasing, but I can do that. Who cares about doing that? My masters degree hasn’t gotten in the way of running off photocopies when volunteering for my kids’ teachers — at least in my imaginary internship, I’d be getting paid!

In fact, two or three years ago I even tried to intern at WBEZ (the Chicago NPR affiliate). I got as far as a wildly successful interview, was told to expect a call about meeting the producer and — nothing. Silence. I followed up, I did everything one must, and all I ever got back was silence, and to this day, I kind of have a hard time listening to the show in question, because really, now — at least call me back, right? I really wanted that gig. Really, really, really.

But if I’m not going to learn how to produce a story for radio, I can think of a lot of internships/apprenticeships I’d like to try. I’d love to work alongside a carpenter, or at the aforementioned independent press, or maybe as a roadie, with a small film crew, on an archaeological dig, or for a handy-man (or, you know, -woman. No sexism). Florists, too — ooh! And hot air balloon rentals! That would be cool.

As long as I’d be learning new stuff, would be paid a little something, and would still have time to do some writing, I think any of those options would be just grand.

It just can’t be in London.

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  1. I recognise that desire to learn learn learn. I’ve always had that hunger, but it has become more pronounced as I get older and along with it a realisation that there might not be time for everything. Might not meaning not. I have a whole list of things I still want to do, and I like the idea of working alongside a carpenter, etc… It’s a writer-thing, no? A kind of drive to know about as much of human experience as we can. And I’d love to be each other’s intern. And chocolate-coated almonds and raisins, and watching thirtysomething, will always remind me of you and that time in our lives. x

    • The raisins! I forgot the raisins! Ahhh, they were the best part! : )

      And you’re right, I think. I often refer to this job of mine, such as it is, as being like getting to stay in graduate school forever. You get paid to ask questions and then write about it.

  2. Emily

     /  February 22, 2013

    Alas, working on an archaeological dig for the first time is generally something you have to pay for, almost always through a university-run summer field school. I did mine through scholarships, but otherwise it would’ve cost thousands of dollars! I only know of one university that pays students as interns rather than charging them tuition, but it’s in the wrong part of the country for you, and you’d have to be a student there to be eligible. (This system is not exploitative, I think, because you have to learn a lot of methods and have good supervision before you can do anything useful, whereas you can do a lot of damage without them; one summer course is not unreasonable as a qualification, it’s like having to take a bio lab course before working in a research lab.)

    The National Park Service does volunteer archaeology programs that run for about a week each and are called “Passport in Time,” you could look into any in your region for a summer vacation type thing…but unfortunately, for learning archaeology, you either have to pay or volunteer. Getting paid is vanishingly unlikely. I don’t mean to be a downer, but I’m in my 20s, with three seasons of expenses-only archaeological fieldwork before I got my first paycheck for it and quite a few unpaid internships in another field, and I totally wish paid internships/apprenticeships were the norm in more fields than they are.

    • Ah, here you’ve touched on something that I honestly believe is one of the bigger Things Wrong With America: the ubiquity of unpaid internships. We build entire entire strata of our professional class on the assumption that people can work without being paid for it, and that not paying people for their labor is an ethical thing to do.

      In fields where the untrained present real threat to the mission at hand (like archaeology), I certainly see the need to structure the instruction period in a way that the new learner isn’t in a position to do that damage, which may extend the time spent in academia learning the craft, but I think expenses-only is reasonable. You’re not expecting your employees to be independently wealthy, at least.


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