Penlight

With the onset of graduation, finding a job is an issue that is weighing heavily on everyone’s minds. With a slacking economy, jobs are scarce and any edge you can get over the competition is valuable. Given that, I have decided to participate in slave labor, something college students sometimes call an “internship.”

For the summer I will be employed at Fairchild Publications, “the first place the people in the markets we serve turn to for news, information and entertainment.” I am working at one of their trade magazines, and I am the only intern at the office. Because of this I will be working 40 hours a week, from 10 to 6 every single day.

And for my services I will be paid the grand total of? Nothing.

Not that I am against this experience. I was chosen one of 125 interns selected from 12,000 applicants, so of course I am extremely honored – and honestly a little surprised. I will be working in a field that I enjoy, in a city I love, for a company I’ve actually heard of, which is a lot luckier than most people I know.

In order to actually get this internship I had to go through a long, strange, interesting process that was a learning experience in itself. Back in December, over winter break, I summoned up all the motivation I could muster during a recess from school and sent out nearly 100 resumes to various companies, newspapers and magazines all over the country. I was determined to get a job over the summer.

I heard back from about 10. Maybe less. Out of those ten, about half told me that I was too late and that the process for selecting summer interns had taken place months ago. It amazed me that for an internship in the summer of 2003, these companies were hiring people in the fall of 2002.

Regardless, I wasn’t late for every deadline, and I got an email from Fairchild Publications in February asking me to come in for an interview in March.

The winter days passed by slowly but my day in March finally came. The email simply asked me to respond to confirm that I would be attending, and told me that all I needed to bring was 20 updated copies of my resumes and an updated portfolio.

When I arrived to the building, located near Macy’s on 34th Street, I went to the front desk to sign in, and before I had a chance to say anything, the desk attendant asked, “Here for the interview?” Wow, I thought, I am already being recognized here!

I went up to the fifth floor and was greeted with quite a surprise. In front of me were 40 other young, eager college students, apparently all here for the same interview. Needless to say, I felt less than special. And I wasn’t the only one – none of the other people there seemed to realize that this was not a one on one interview.

We were then all herded into a large conference room where there were rows of seats facing long tables where representatives were presenting displays of various Fairchild magazines. Then we were given a speech by a human resources representative who explained a little bit about the company and each of the 20 or so magazines.

After each magazine representative gave a brief description about what they were looking for in an intern, we had to go up to each one we were interested in and participate in a quick exchange of information that felt more like the new speed-dating craze than a job interview.

We were given two minutes to sell ourselves and convince the magazine that we were the best pick for the job. On top of that, only four magazines from the 20 were there were actually looking for someone to do editorial work – the rest were looking for photographers, graphic designers, and fashion majors.

There was a line of at least 20 people waiting to interview with a woman looking for someone to physically pick up boxes of clothes and bring them to photo shoots. And I thought journalism was a hard field to break into.

Then we had to fill out an application where we listed our top eight choices for jobs – even if we had interviewed with 15 different magazines, we were only allowed to pick our top eight. From the list we compiled, the human resources department would play matchmaker and compare the list that we made with the list that the magazine representatives gave then. If I put a magazine as my top choice, and they put me as their top choice, then I would get the job. There was no second interview; there was no applicant getting a job they didn’t want.

When we left we were told we would hear back through email in a week or two whether or not we got a job. The next Saturday I got an email asking me to accept a job at Supermarket News, “the leading publication serving the $400-billion-plus U.S. supermarket business.” I also found out that it would an unpaid internship.

Now I had a dilemma – do I take an unpaid internship for the summer that would hopefully help me with my job search after graduation, or do I continue to work in a paying job that probably added nothing of significance to my resume?

Of course, I decided to take the internship. I am getting 12 credits for it too – so not only am I not being paid for an entire summer of work, but I actually end up paying for the experience too. However, I am guaranteed a published article with a byline, as well as the opportunity to pitch story ideas to my editor. And after the summer ends, Fairchild has a job placement program for all its interns. I’d say its well worth a little free labor.

Despite the harrowing process, I am very excited to begin the job. Yes, it’s slave labor, and yes, I am paying for it, but I am finally getting out into the real world. I can finally see if how we work over here at The Torch even remotely resembles a real news environment. And I finally get to put my education to work.