The Intern’s Gospel

If you keep these commandments, you’ll keep yourself employed

The job landscape for young professionals nowadays is an unpredictable slog. Yet despite the challenges and constant disappointments, many maintain a vision of their dream job, a wonderful but seemingly unattainable fruit-laden Eden where all good workers share laughs around perpetually filled water coolers. Unpaid internships and part-time gigs may keep you just back from the cusp of self-doubt, but have faith! As a current Inlander intern with experience at several other companies, I have weathered the harsh climb to the top of the sacred mountain of near-employment and I return to you now with 10 Commandments that will lead you closer to your promised job.

1. Thou shalt have no other gods before thine editor or manager.

If you want to be noticed, communicate early and often with whomever you report to. Respect their authority and demands, and make their priorities your own because they know more than you.

2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image of thine family, bff or adorably chubby calico Kittenus Maximus and place them upon your desk, for your desk is fated to be whatever space may be available and therefore is subject to change.

You are a newcomer and your job is to earn your way into the office culture. But if you’re diligent and focused, you’ll reap your reward.

3. Thou shalt not drop the bomb of “F” until sure the office culture allows, at which point thou shalt proceed with utter abandon.

Office cultures differ greatly across the occupational spectrum. Err on the side of caution when considering how casual to be, whether it’s with your language or outfit. Yes, put on a nice shirt and pants you pot-smoking hippie!

4. Remember the Wednesday morning meeting and keep it holy.

To really get positive attention as a newcomer or intern, you have to first make sure people notice you for the right reasons. This means showing up a little early every day and being impeccably punctual to meetings. While you’re there, make sure you voice the input and those questions you prepared.

5. Honour thy fellow co-workers and interns that thy days may be long in the office in which you may eventually work for pay.

The phrase “make love, not war” jumps to mind here, though don’t make too much love. (Office hook-ups are bad juju.) Respecting and acting kindly toward the people you work with will make it more bearable for you. Also, people who like you will want to work with you in the future.

6. Thou shalt not attempt too intensely to “kill it.”

Working your way up the ladder means earning what you receive and learning how to be humble. If you have mad skills and expertise in something, absolutely let it be known, but temper that confidence with two open ears and a receptive mind.

7. Thou shalt not work for other companies without the knowledge and consent of the almighty editor/manager.

Showing loyalty and respect to your boss is important because it shows they can rely on you. If you absolutely have to work another job, work with your boss to schedule time for it.

8. Thou shalt not steal or copy other workers’ work, nor pour yourself the last cup of coffee from the office pot, for these are mortal sins and punishable by stoning and/or termination.

Other people are trying just as hard as you are, perhaps harder, to land a job. If you step on their feet or poach their hard work, it will catch up to you, and when it does your job history will always have that asterisk.

9. Thou shalt always bear false witness against your neighbor in the midst of office prank wars.

Just because you’re starting out at a new place of business doesn’t mean you’re an outcast and a mute. Get a feel for the culture and the acceptable humor and try your hand at participating. Know of a co-worker who enjoys AMC’s The Walking Dead? Talk shit about Carl. Worst case, laugh at your co-workers’ jokes. People appreciate thinking they’re comedy gold.

10. Thou shalt not covet your co-workers’ desk placement near the windows.

Your co-workers have moved up the ladder and may be living cushy, but that just means they likely aren’t willing to do jobs that they feel aren’t in their pay range. Get after those duties! Often times this will involve the jobs no one wants. But if you can do them well, people will take notice. 

Christian Wilson, a senior at Northwestern University in Illinois, has spent three months as an Inlander intern.

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