Me vs. the Nerds: Unpaid Internships


I have a very hard time when people are different in a way that I hadn’t accounted for yet.  I don’t know if that sets off other people, too.  Earlier this month I spent some time with some nerds.  I’ve spent plenty of time with nerds in the past.  But these were nerds who didn’t seem to have spent much time with non-nerds like me.  They weren’t socially daft at all, just neither they nor I had thought of the world from the other’s perspective.

I, along with everyone else who did not major in the sciences, economics, or something law-related, have had several unpaid internships.  There really is no alternative.  If you want a career, you build your resume before and after college with unpaid internships so that one day you can actually get paid to do work.  If you don’t intern, someone who did will probably get the job.  That’s just the way it is.

Other people are able to get paid modestly or pretty well for their “internship” and I put that in quotes because to me getting paid well means it’s a short-term job.  These people are also hopefully recruited at their internships for future employment with the company and have a much higher probability of making a large salary in the future.

Therefore there are two different ways for college-educated people to begin careers and this manages to create or foster diametrically opposed points of view.

When asking me about my internships, the nerds used unfamiliar language such as “your training,” and expressed disbelief at my willingness to work for free.  What do you mean, “training?”  My classes have nothing to do with my internships.  You just have to be smart and likeable.  Which is why the companies that take on interns like me can afford it–there’s a limitless supply of smart and likeable people.  You don’t have to know Calculus.  You don’t even have to know Algebra.

The nerds saw academic input equalling career achievement whereas I see internship accumulation and personal development (through traveling or projects) as career achievement.  My career achievement means actually getting the job I want, and for them it means getting the salary that all their hard work deserves.

Big generalization, I know, but in general people who go into science/technology/business are at least partially motivated by the income.  It’s not a criticism.  I’d love to make a comfortable salary, but unfortunately my interests don’t necessarily provide for that and I’d rather be happy and have a moderate income than have a lot of money that I don’t need and a job I don’t like.

It’s easy for me now to delineate how we have no other choice but to take different paths to get to our goals but at the time the nerds and I had a hard time reconciling why the other chose his way of life.  You want to spend 8 years getting a PhD?  You want to waste your life away researching whatever while everyone else gets to explore different cities, jobs, cultures, countries, people, romances?

While I’ve stopped being so bipartisan, how spoiled are these people for working for pay?  They even get PAID to go to school.  What the fuck?  Am I allowed to curse on wordpress? I’m new at this.

Sure they work, but they’re getting paid the whole time!  Why should they continue to make more money than me in the future?  It’s actually a little fucked up when I look at it that way.  Oh well, this is what I’ve chosen.  At another school I could have gone the other way.  It’s kind of crazy how had I made one decision differently, I could be pursuing an entirely different career.

I want to be a casting director.


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One response to “Me vs. the Nerds: Unpaid Internships

  1. Sarah N.

    I can completely see where you are coming from on this. I too have encountered that same awkward “pause” when you realize that it’s something that is as confusing or illogical to the other party as it is to you. I try to keep in mind that each individual typically chooses his or her path, especially when it deals with extensive forms of higher education. When discussing with my husband careers, aspirations and such, I find he almost defies the general theory that I had growing up– I always assumed that everyone who deliberately chose something with these types of ‘higher education’ were always pleased with the decision. My father never once told me that he wished he hadn’t become a doctor, nor has my uncle has ever stated that he wished was wasn’t an attorney, etc. My husband however has no problem in stating that if he could do it all over again he would NOT be a Psychologist, but instead become a social worker. Here, they are paid the same, do the same job minus actual testing, but don’t spend 9 extra years in school like him and have a $75,000 student loan to go on top of it. I’ve always found it frustrating when observing these sorts of “injustices.” To each his own, no?

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