You People And Your Problems: ‘I Didn’t Go To Yale Just So I Could Make Coffee At My Internship!’

You People And Your Problems: 'I Didn't Go To Yale Just So I Could Make Coffee At My Internship!'

Here at HappyNiceTimePeople, we’re not afraid to be servicey. Email sara@happynicetimepeople.com with your advice questions on any topic. Now, on to a question from a young lady who is very mad that she has to make coffee at her internship, because she went to Yale, you see.

Dear Sara:

I graduated from Yale this year with a degree in the liberal arts. I got mostly A’s during my time at Yale, and a Yale “A” is no joke (seriously, I almost had a nervous breakdown a few times, but I think it made me stronger in the end). I worked really hard in my very competitive high school and in college, and now I’ve got a prestigious internship in the career field of my choice. I know I’m lucky, but I am also so pissed off right now.

I’m sitting at work and once again they’ve told me to make coffee. All I do all day is make coffee. I am so damn sick of making coffee. And stapling things together. And doing stupid grunt work. I’m not trying to be a snob, but I’m better than this. If I had wanted to learn how to make coffee, I would’ve applied at Starbucks.

This is a waste of my time and energy. I led several clubs in college in addition to maintaining my grades.  If I didn’t think this internship would look good on a resume, I would quit now and go work with my dad or mom at their companies. But I really want to build a career on my own. I just don’t see how making coffee is going to help me do that. How should I tell my boss I’m not happy?

Sincerely,

Kesha

Dear Kesha:

Honey. Sweetie. Baby. Angel. Listen. Before I give you advice, I want you first to promise me you will never, ever, ever utter this complaint to anyone else in the entire world. I think you’re coming from a good place — you want to show your worth and really contribute in a meaningful way to the job at hand.

But.

You come off sounding like an entitled piece of shit.

I know you aren’t an entitled piece of shit! But that’s how it sounds to the outside world, in which most people have had to do something over and over again each and every day of the week without much gratitude or pay.

I’m not trying to attack you. I’m just trying reflect your words back to you so that you can see how they sound to an outsider. Look, I’ve been a lazy, entitled piece of shit in my day. I got fired from a job selling furniture because I didn’t show up on time. I almost got fired from a job at a pharmaceutical industry magazine because I put out the vibe that I thought I was better than the work. Putting off the vibe that you think you are better than the work IS THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO because it makes people think YOU think you are better than them! Now, at 33, I take on a million jobs at once in an attempt to prove to myself that I am a hard worker. This is not the wisest way. I want you to learn from my errors and be better than I was and am. But first, you need to know how you sound to others.

If I overheard you talking about this in a cafe, I would want to put you through the wall and into the next store over (probably a CVS, because CVS is everywhere. Isn’t it great that you’re not working at CVS? You’d be on your feet all day doing much more than just making coffee.) But I know you’re probably a very good person, and a loving friend, and a kind citizen of the world. So let’s get into it.

You should not tell your boss you are not happy. Your happiness should not matter to your boss. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. Your boss’s job is not to make you happy, or to care about your happiness, or to hold your hand. Your boss’s job is to run whatever business she runs, and to do so in a decent, dignified and respectful manner. Your boss has more important things on her mind than your level of joy. Therefore, it is up to you to make yourself happy, and to do that, you’re going to have to make peace with your scullery maid status.

Make the coffee. Make the copies. Make the calls, and when you’re done making the coffee and the copies and the calls, ask if there are more ways in which you can help. Make every interaction with you an absolute pleasure. Be a gentle ray of sunshine. Be dependable. Be hardworking. Take that energy you used at Yale and pour it into being the best fucking coffee maker in the entire world. Get to know everyone’s preference. Make sure the kitchen is well-stocked. If you can handle coffee and copies and calls, maybe they’ll let you do something cooler.

You’re proving yourself. We all have to do it (well, most of us, anyway). This whole coffee thing isn’t just a coffee thing. It’s a test of your ability to endure, to survive, to succeed, to shine. If you can’t fucking hack it, how the hell are you going to do anything more challenging?

I want you to be the kind of intern who makes herself indispensable. I want you to be the kind of intern who becomes an integral part of the office simply by doing her job well. I want you to be the kind of intern who gets a wonderful recommendation at the end of her tenure, perhaps even a job offer! You never know where this coffee thing will lead.

Make that coffee like it’s the most important thing you have to do. Because in that moment, it is.

And finally, for a perspective more…intense…than the one I gave you here, I suggest you read this Wonkette point/counterpoint piece on Millennials and entitlement. It might be the best thing you could possible read in your situation.

With loving, big sisterly encouragement,

Sara B.

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  • jfruh

    OK, so I totally agree that “I’m a YALIE and I got A’s and I’m TOO GOOD FOR THIS SHIT” is a shitty reaction to this internship. But I do believe that “My ‘internship’, which is supposed to be teaching me about work in my chosen field, involves making coffee and stapling things, and is bullshit” is a COMPLETELY legitimate response.For the record, I’ve worked in white-collar office environments and I always made my own coffee, and the idea that there should be some other person making my coffee for me — a young, female person, what a shock — never occurred to me. I don’t think that making other people coffee is particularly useful way to learn about a non-coffee-makng industry. And the fact that this internship has social capital that makes it valuable as a credential beyond what you actually learn from the experience, to the extent that the letter writer is giving up a chance on actual work experience to keep at it, says some pretty shitty stuff about how the American business world works.

    • Bill Nilsen

      If my dad & mom had their own companies, I’da went to work for one of them. . . unless they were both some kinda assholes.

  • cassamandra

    oh please. it depends on the terms of the internship. it depends on whether there’s a gender bias here. she’s entirely within her rights to carefully and politely ask whether her responsibilities might be expanded. you gave this chick terrible advice. Kesha, here’s what you say: “I’ve really enjoyed getting to know this office/company/whatever, and I feel I’ve learned quite a bit just by listening. I think I might be ready to pull my weight — is there any assignment I could help out with?” Go, girl.

    • be kind

      Although, if she were such an amazing self-starter, etc., she could actually SUGGEST something she might be able to help with, after she’s finished her grunt chores.

  • Jason M

    “I think it made me stronger in the end”; immediately brought to mind the Buns Of Steel tapes that were all the rage way back when. Which THEN reminded me that my wife hired a camera guy whose CV included a recent sequel to the Sweatin’ To the Oldies, sans the inimitable Richard Simmons, sadly. Apparently there’s still money to be had with those things, so there, that’s my advice.

  • Ben Skirvin

    Man, I don’t blame her. Internships are exploitation. It’s not “entitled” to expect compensation for services rendered and a “internship” which primarily involves menial task is likely illegal under the Fair Labor Standards Act.If an employer claims to offer an internship, but that “internship” offers no educational value in exchange for services rendered, then the employer is acting ILLEGALLY. This is a standard which has been supported by several court rulings.This person is well within their rights to expect more from an internship than to be treated as free labor. My advice to all college graduates is to refuse any position which does not offer compensation. You are better off working for very little for yourself, than for free for someone else. Especially if that someone else doesn’t even offer experience in your field of choice.

    • Señor Skwerl

      Agreed, but I suspect she might actually be doing actual work but doesn’t realized that work often involves stupid menial tasks. If you are right, then she should talk to her internship office immediately.

      • Ben Skirvin

        Either way, unpaid internships need to stop. To my mind, they are prima facia exploitation. If a company wants someone to make coffee and staple papers, they should pay someone to make coffee and staple papers..

        • MauriceGarin

          Agreed, but I didn’t see where Kesha said the internship was unpaid.

  • Señor Skwerl

    Alisha,Sorry, but I hear this story ten times a day. Seriously, they pay me to do it. There is a reason why you are doing the grunt work: you have no skills or experience. Yeah, selling buttons for the Overachievers Club is not considered experience in the real world. I’m sorry movies have taught you that once you get your liberal arts degree you can go out the next day and land a flashy CEO position in the most fashionable office in town.As for your “hard work” in college: bullshit. I like many others had to work full-time and live real adult lives doing our own cooking and cleaning and grocery shopping while attending college full-time. Spring break wasn’t trips or parties, but a day off when we might have time to change the oil in our cars or go shopping at Target. And on top of this we still maintained a high GPA.Also a former barista I learned on the job the grunt skills that has allowed me to spend the last 20 years standing around with a cup of coffee telling people what todo with their lives. This is basically my only skill. It pays good money. You kids nowadays with your skinny-leg jeans and Justin Bieber iPad covers….[/rant]

  • AnOuthouse

    Meh, that was a shitty answer. If someone wants a servant/slave they should advertise the position as such. I’d recommend making shitty coffee then they’ll stop asking you to do it. Other than that, sexual favors have demonstrated to be effective for increasing your worth at work.

  • BigRedDog

    I thought “liberal arts degree” and making coffee went hand in hand.

  • Doctor Krieger

    Maybe I’m less sympathetic because in order to get my foot in the door for shadowing at a vet clinic, my first job included scrubbing the toilet despite having a BS in biology. It was sucky degrading work but I worked my way up from there, got my required “experience” and got accepted to vet school. I guess ultimately it depends on what your goal is. My goal was never to work at that practice indefinitely so I figured I was using them just as much as they were using me.

  • Jamie

    I have to disagree. While everything this article advises rings true for JOBS, this young person is at an internship, and contrary to popular belief, internships are for the benefit of the intern and should not be a source of slave-like labor for the company. Give the young person some real, honest to goodness tasks, and hire someone to make your coffee and fetch your packages!

    • Linann

      I work for a law firm, as the “grunt” and have done this for over 15 years, I had worked for a firm as an “Office Assistant”, but what the Office Manager, from hell, wanted was a maid, I applied at another firm and what made me really want to work here, was the day I interview for the job, the Office Manager was at the front desk answering the phone, she would turn on the dish washer at night and someone else put the dishes away in the morning when she openned. Yes, I do the “grunt” work, but I don’t do it alone. I love what I do, and I do it very well. All Hail The Grunts!!!!

  • randomness lez

    Boola, Boola; Boola, Boola; Boola, Boola;Boo!

  • theflaminglips

    I would NEVER ask an intern to make coffee, that is so rude. Don’t give me this Mr. Miagi s**t about it being some kind of “proving yourself” test. As a manager of an intern or internship program it is your duty to make sure that intern is learning valuable and meaningful work, if you cannot provide that you have no business employing an intern. I agree with this Kesha, maybe she used the wrong the wrong language but do we really want to give young women the advice “don’t complain, just take what your are given, you’re no better than any one else”? This is what we have been doing for ages, this is why women don’t value themselves in the workforce. A good manager/boss would encourage and allow Kesha to thrive, they would want her to be happy, a happy employee is a productive loyal employee. Bad form Sara.

  • Pat_Pending

    I wish you had been my mom 30 years ago…

  • Daniel P

    possibly, not possibleSincerely,Bitter, Gen-X Underachiever

  • Paul Sheridan

    Jeez liberal arts majors have it tough. I had paid internships BEFORE I graduated and even then they had me doing engineering work. I’m not trying to be condescending I just never realized it was so bad that Yale grads are making coffee for free.

  • e-lyte

    She should ask herself how much of her bosses’ time she’s wasting. From the perspective of someone who sometimes has been given interns, I, too, think internships should be abolished– if it’s a job that actually needs doing and needs to be done well, I’d hire someone to do it, someone with experience and motivation. Internships are for the intern, and it’s hard work to come up with things for them to do that don’t require constant supervision, prior knowledge, and/or authority that a temporary worker just doesn’t have. Instead of being sullen, she could look around her and identify projects that she would like to be a part of and present a case for how should could be a helpful member of that team. Then her poor boss wouldn’t have to come up with busywork for her.I also don’t believe she actually spends that much time making coffee, unless she’s very bad at brewing coffee. She just wasn’t immediately made the lead on a sexy, creative, “disruptive” project so now she thinks the whole thing is menial.In short, I hate her. “Go work with my dad or mom at their companies”? Haaaaate.

    • Doctor Krieger

      Well of course, she doesn’t just make coffee…she very clearly says she wrote this post at work too.

    • be kind

      EXACTLY! That is where I went from “yeah, things are lousy with all of the internships nowadays” to “AAARRRGGGHHHH!” OK, then. Go work with your dad or mom at their companies. (I’m going to guess that this company didn’t really NEED you to make coffee and whatever, but was doing a business favor for your mom or dad.) No loss to us. I’m trying to believe that this person is not an entitled, shitty brat, but it’s taking a lot of work.

  • WA Bishop

    Stop already with the “building the resume” checklist and find something useful and interesting to do. Now get out of my office, I have work to do.

  • goonemeritus

    After reading this heartbreaking tale I realize I was aspoiled child after I graduated. Sure having to take a janitorial job to pay my college loans was disappointing but at least they took me seriously enough to let me run the buffer.

    • Doctor Krieger

      Man, you should have gone to work at your dad’s company.

    • glasspusher

      as long as you didn’t overrun the buffer.Man, I didn’t staple when I was an intern. I got to do actual work, based on my resume of doing actual lab work when I was a technician after my one failed year of college. Long and winding road FTW.

  • Chixsngr

    Well…she may be a spoiled brat, but a company that USES a college graduate to do grunt work not at all related to her education is simply getting menial work FOR FREE. It’s a huge industry now. Those jobs used to get a high school graduate enough money to pay for an apartment. Darlin’, if I were you, I’d go back to Yale and tell them what that company has you doing. They’re really not allowed to do that. Your duties should be related to your major.

    • Carolyn Castiglia

      What world do you live in? Everyone I know who does or has done grunt work is a college graduate.

    • Doctor Krieger

      She doesn’t say the internship is unpaid nor does she say that the internship was acquired through her school. In fact, she already graduated.

  • Carolyn Castiglia

    Complaining about not learning anything on an internship is fair; complaining about being the low man on the totem pole when you’re an intern isn’t. Office managers and admins with full-time employee status make coffee and STAPLE THINGS TOGETHER and HAVE COLLEGE DEGREES. (Mine’s in stapling, actually. They call me Dr. Swingline.) Maybe just do the grunt work and then say, “All the grunt work is done! Could you teach me something about XYZ now?”

    • Bcre8ve

      I thought internships, and the fact that you are not paid (or paid very little) meant that companies are required, by law, to provide experiences that are learning experiences providing hands-on experience that can not be achieved in the classroom, not menial tasks that replace the duties of low-level employees.But I could be wrong.

  • ImpureScience

    She’s getting a valuable lesson in the meaninglessness of corporate life. I hope she figures out a better use for her raw material and training.

  • ImpureScience
  • Robert Ferello

    Kesha, Be grateful you have a job that pays good money for you to do mundane tasks. It’s just the path you must take to get where you want to be. But the most important thing you must remember when you get there is have some compassion for the person who will be making your coffee.

    • mtn_philosoph

      Actually, from where I stand (as a classic Peak-era Boomer), she should be glad that she has a job, period. That alone puts her way ahead of me.

  • Linann

    I have always told my kids, ” I don’t care if your a nose picker at the free clinic, be the best damn nose picker they have”

  • mfp

    dear kesha…welcome to fascist capitalism…ignore everything sara just wrote to you and run!…run for your life while you still can, run as fast as you can from that fucked up corporate world before it sucks the life out of your soul

  • RogerWorkman

    Why are you building her up? “Hope in reality is the worst of all evils, for it prolongs the torment of man.”(Pretty sure Barry O said that)

  • Cornelius

    “You have the boorish manners of a Yalie”

  • Naomi Baker

    Yawn. My (paid) intern is a chemical engineer student who actually knows how to do engineering calculations and troubleshoot processes (with some oversight). I ALSO send him to fetch lunch, drop people at the airport, and take my company car in for oil change and wash. Of course, he only went to a state university.

    • Haribo Lector

      But do you ONLY let him do that stuff, or does he get to do some engineering too? There are a lot of companies abusing the intern system to get cheap grunt labour without fulfilling their end of the deal.

  • Leota2

    Oh Kesha, you are so very young. . . . Anyway, Starbucks provides healthcare.

  • gloria_gloria

    I’ve supervised more than two dozen interns in the past decade and I’m glad to be able to have a place to share that I’m often shocked by their entitlement. The organization for whom I work has a relationship with a number of different colleges in our region, both public and private; the students on the program that I’m seeing are being paid ten dollars an hour to do some combination of grunt-admin tasks, that may include making coffee for meetings, and we/supervisors also are responsible for carving out some meaningful, on-going tasks (that might involve basic research with some writing, something the full time salaried admin assistants all around these interns, aka recent college grads, don’t get to do). Just as folks have said, this mentoring takes a lot of effort and many of my colleagues decline the interns. And yet even when a healthy percentage of their work (a third?) isn’t grunt labor, I’ve had more than half of them complain directly to me and/or resist and never complete tasks like filing. I’ve seen open, outright, whining tantrums. The students who have complained come from wildly different economic backgrounds and I’ve often tried to figure out if what I’m seeing is generational — it seems like it. Each time it happens, I’m still stunned.

  • BeliTsari

    Might I suggest a scimitar? You could await a Halloween costume party & go as a Disney Princess (since the ‘rent’ would pounce you lugging a machete, coco-buttered-up like Danny Trejo?) Scimitars are ever so elegant, svelte, include a hand guard to spare your nails & just scream lawsuit if confiscated, based upon the least whiff of prejudicial ethnic profiling & they’re pre-jeweled.

  • glasspusher

    Also, loser in that picture doesn’t even have his fingers on the home keys.

  • Outside of academia, a liberal arts degree is not going to get you a job, but you knew that right? There are very few magazine that actually pay their writers, and no one else is that much better off. After getting two myself, I learned a skill and developed a career. I do not understand this “intern” bullshit. Why are people applying the career path logic of the 1950’s when it hasn’t worked since … the 1950’s?

    • Haribo Lector

      What you say is true, but instead of responding to his “it’s not fair” with “we’re all treated like shit, so you should be too” maybe we should be responding with “you’re right, and none of us should take it”. Just because everyone is equally mistreated, doesn’t mean the few who complain about it are the ones who are wrong.

      • Well, when I went to college, internships were practically unheard of. They made a tremendous resurgence in the late 90’s, amid a storm of criticism. They seem to be stronger than ever now, despite the fact that they do not perform as expected. I would not participate. Then again, I did not go to college to get a job, I went to get an education. There is another dimension to this, though – that of “interns as scabs”http://www.thebaffler.com/past/internment_camp

  • I thought internships were for rich kids whose parents could pay their bills in expensive cities while they worked for free. At least until they were old enough to get appointed director of something. What museum wants a 22 year old director? Just keep making the coffee until you’re 35 or so.

  • Boo Hoo

    Sorry, Sara, but I’m going to 90% disagree with you. I say 90% because for about the first week or so of your internship (paid or unpaid), you should be shown all the menial tasks that go on behind an enterprise that keep it running like a well-oiled machine with the warning, “Now, this is everything you’ll be doing if you fail your schoolwork!” (Kidding. Sort of) After that, it had better be all about learning what you need to know to do the work effectively, or gtfo.I worked as a pharmacy technician in a hospital that would, in my opinion, “abuse” their pharmacy student interns by just making them do tech work instead of learning more about the pharmacist’s role, such as order entry, compounding, and things like that. To me, this is wrong. Yes, you should know how to do those smaller, menial but yet essential tasks, but it doesn’t take months (or even years) to learn them. Do them for a bit and then move on to more important learning situations. Don’t abuse your interns as free labor to cover shifts where people have called off. It’s bullshit, Sara.Also, if we’re going to play the age card, I’m 46, so my work experience trumps your 30-something card. So, umm, take that. :-)

  • Haribo Lector

    This guy’s definitely a jerk, but he also happens to be right in this case. Internships, even the (low)paid ones are supposed to be like an apprenticeship. I’ve got two (software engineering) undergraduates working with me for a year before they go back to college for their final year, and my boss has them pissing about with MS Paint drawing icons for our software. Fuck that noise, they’re supposed to be learning to be engineers :| Depressing as hell.

  • FraAnima

    Yeah, sorry, but the attitude behind the OP is too much to take. I went to a community college in California before getting an undergraduate degree at a California State school and then a graduate degree at Yale. Let me tell you, an “A” at Yale IS a joke, and a “B” is usually accompanied by a “you can’t possibly give me a B I deserve an A” attitude. There was more intellectual rigor and, dare I say, humility at the “lesser” schools.I’m sure you’re very disappointed that you’re not immediately launching into a great career, but you should take Sara’s advice to heart. A first job is not an internship, it’s a job, and you’re being paid to do what the boss asks you to do. If you want more, do as Sara advises. I’ll add my unsolicited advice: lose the attitude that Yale offers you a special place in the world. Of course, it actually does, through name recognition and the fact that you were accepted there in the first place. But you need to build on that, not rest on it. There are a lot of people in the world who are just as smart, driven, and accomplished as you are (or more so) who did not have the chance to go to Yale, Harvard, Princeton, etc. If you want something that looks good on your resume, suck it up and do the menial shit. If you’re an engineer or a pharmacist, (as suggested below), you may have a point but you still need to suck it up. Otherwise, someone with just as much talent but less of a feeling of entitlement is going to come along and eat your lunch.

  • Guest

    Sara is right, sweetie (and get used to being called sweetie, too, because workplaces are still run by lazy baby boomers). Grin and bear it; you’ll look back from a better place in a few years.