Dear Preston: Should I Keep Doing This For Free or Quit?


Dear Preston

Dear Preston:

I am a college student who is very interested in entering the event industry.  I have written no fewer than 30 emails to different companies in the city.  I was determined to get an internship and was thrilled when I was accepted into one of the programs.  

My issue is this: I have been there for three weeks and the only thing I am doing is picking up coffee, laundry and doing other trivial tasks.  I did not sign up for this.  What should I do?  I am afraid to say anything to the owner, fearing that I will be asked to leave.  Should I quit? Speak up? What is your best advice?

Free Labor
Dear Free Labor:

I first want to commend you on being such a go-getter.  That said, the answer to your question really comes down to what decision you feel is best for you.

Years ago, I, like you, was a newcomer with big dreams and working as an intern for the great interior designer (and now my dear friend) Vincente Wolf.  I remember having my antenna up every single minute of the day.  Even if the work I was doing seemed trivial, I was learning each and every moment of the day.  Let me be clear that, by paying close attention, I learned a great many lessons that I was able to apply to my own business many years later.  As an intern, you may be getting coffee and running errands, but you can also be asking questions and waiting for the exciting opportunities that come with the job such as seeing an event come to life, watching for the proper ways to greet and treat clients and learning how to interact with a number of people and personality types.

That said, internships should be about mentoring and should teach those willing to do the work how to do it best. If you feel you are being taken advantage of, consider sitting down with your advisor or manager to see if there are ways you can incorporate more hands-on experience.
What do you think she should do?  Should she leave the company?  Have you ever been a mentor?  How was the experience for you?


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