Guest writer

Published on May 17th, 2013

12

Agency wanted for post of internship

There was a time when office interns were persons with zero attitude and full commitment. Those times are clearly over.
by Mukta Lad

I turned 26 in the March that went by. That makes my experience in writing exactly eight years, considering I began working three days after I turned 18. Obviously most of the time was spent freelancing/interning for close to no money, but that’s something everyone is only too familiar with.

I still remember when I was all of 18, shaking in my boots at the prospect of my first ever interview. I came out of the meeting thanking my stars that I had landed a job without any trouble at all, never mind that there was no money involved.

Eight years since, I’m still not better off at interviews. I don’t tremble as much in my flip flops (and I still suck at negotiating for the money), but there’s the constant awareness of meeting a very senior, experienced person with more knowledge and skills than I’ll probably ever have. I try and dress decently (I work in advertising. So ‘decently’ means wearing jeans and a peasant top, rather than the usual metal tees and jeans), I am at my politest best, and I would die rather than not stick to the time that my prospective employer is expecting me at. Never mind that I just might have to wait hours before he agrees to see me, if at all.

And this is despite having three-four years of experience in the field.

So then, what is with 18-year-old kids these days?

I’ve worked with a fair share of interns. And more than 10 times that number have applied to me for an internship. I just have one question: what’s with the attitude?

From writing ridiculously pompous cover letters to sending me writing samples that they believe are Pulitzer Prize-worthy, to asking for feedback and hating the criticism, these people have done it all. Some of them are lazy, some think most intern-worthy chores are beneath them, while some are just plain bad writers proficient in denial.

The underlying, uniting factor? They all think copywriting is easy.

I’ve been asked the following questions from copy interns coming in for interviews, or while they were working with me. I present them to you in increasing order of ridiculousness.

– It’s 5.30. I have to leave. Can I do this tomorrow?
– How many times a week do you party?
– Do you need to read for this job? I kinda don’t read!
– I don’t have any writing samples, ya. Is that a problem?
– Hmm, I don’t like the idea of writing brochures. Can you give me more interesting work to do?
– Oh, you’re a ‘digital’ agency? And your ‘normal’ advertising sits downstairs? So can I join upstairs and move downstairs?    
– How famous is this agency? I don’t want to join a small place.
– I have been working on this account for two months and I don’t like it. Can you put me on some other account?
– It’s my anniversary tomorrow and I’m spending the day with my girlfriend. Cool, na?
– Oh man, we can’t come to office at 12?

And that’s just the start of things to come. I don’t think I’d muster the courage to talk to anyone like that, even when I’m 25 years old in the industry.

Just recently, a girl who desperately wanted a job never showed up for her interview. Neither did she pick up HR’s calls or respond to SMSes. We still don’t know whether she was buried alive in an avalanche somewhere on her way here. I hope she was. Many interns I see try to leave at 5 pm leaving a mound of work behind because of reasons ranging from family dinners, weddings, friends’ birthdays, farewells, airport pickups/drops, sick pets, bachelorette parties, shopping sprees before impending Goa trips…the list is endless, just like the number of events in their party calendars!

Why aren’t kids these days more scared of annoying their prospective employers with the horrible attitude? Where does this ‘I-know-a-lot-more-than-you’ attitude come from? And why do they mistake bad manners for ‘dashing attitude’ and ‘confidence’?

Sweeping generalisations aside, most of the trainees we see don’t even know the basics. And they don’t want to learn more than they already think they know. I am a copywriter, so I can only speak for advertising. They apply for a writing job and expect me to explain the difference between ‘loose’ and ‘lose’. Don’t even get me started on their full party calendar because of which they can never work late hours.

What about advertising and writing makes people believe it’s the easiest profession on the planet? What makes them think they’re going to be at Cannes the very next year, without any drudgery? How are they okay overriding seniors and establishing their own rules?  Am I the only one meeting these specimens?

And last, and perhaps the most important question: when did I become old and wise enough to call other people ‘kids’?

Mukta Lad is a copy supervisor with a leading ad agency in Mumbai. Follow her at @mooodles, or not.

(Pictures courtesy Pushkaraj Shirke, pleaseuseyourwords.blogspot.com, www.cristianoakajames.com)

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12 Responses to Agency wanted for post of internship

  1. Akshay says:

    Ranting at its best!!! Why the hell do you recruit such people??? Can’t you guage them in the interview in the first place???

    • R says:

      Exactly how the entire Indian cricket team knew Sreesanth is a cheat and kicked him out of the team, right?

      Well, I am sure many bad seeds are weeded out during the interviews but one can’t “guage” sincerity to the absolute precision in just a conversation, can one?

      Do you have a bad boss? Ever wondered how the devil was he hired in the first place?

      The ranting is well in place. If an employee takes his/her work a tad more seriously, things would be much different.

      Like my employers say, “Leave work in an hour if you have to but there must be no backlogs”.

      Have you ever heard your intern attending 4 marriages in one week? I have. And I really doubt she showed up at even one of them.

      • Sakshi says:

        I remember when I used to intern, I used to be really scared, and I think I have done everything possible (like stapling pages sorting their issues with the privilege cards..etc) to please the permanent employees so that they can put in a god word for me.
        But, the attitude is not a one way street, the way the interns atleast in the legal industry are treated are like dirt bags.. for that very reason I make it a point to be helpful and make sure that the interns actually learn something.

        I don’t know, about the advertising and writing industry, but most of the attitude in the interns in the legal field come in because either they are from a hot shot law school or children of hot shot lawyers.

        But at the end of the day, one needs to realise that they are JUST interns, and they should be only given as much work. Because, internships don’t pay therefore they don’t have an incentive to work beyond the stipulated hours (unless they know that they have a chance of a pre-placement offer from the the place that they are interning at) and second they do internship to learn the work, and most of the time they are getting coffees, therefore they don’t learn.

        I feel internships should become incentive based in order to solve the attitude problem.

        A good internship with opportunities, changes the attitudes!

  2. Nikhil says:

    You might want to fix ‘different’…

    “They apply for a writing job and expect me to explain the different between ‘loose’ and ‘lose’. “

  3. Ramalakshmi says:

    Hi,

    I agree there is this huge “attitude” issues with interns/trainees/students.

    They see everything as a part of life. work is also part of their life, as much as their outings or family dinners. in fact they don care equally much for their family dinners/outings cos they are all the time engaged with their smart phones.

    i think no one, be it an employee or intern, must be retained or expected to stay overtime. that’s a matter of work place discipline.

    I agree on lines of those bad samples, i know too much and generally aggressive behavior. I am also trying to deal with those issues.

  4. darrylvaz says:

    Yes, I have too gone through this, and No, you aren’t the only person on the planet to meet these highly intellectual breed of creatures. It’s a shame, how people aren’t ready to spend extra time and finish work.
    And yes, in general (we can be stereotypical here), aspiring copywriting and graphic interns have a peculiar type of attitude that they would’ve like to enjoy the privileges of a CD (If you know what I mean).

  5. mandappa says:

    Wow, now we’re discussing agency experience on random forums. Tut tut! As for all those of you who had something to say against the author, let me tell you this. If you don’t understand creative criticism a.k.a constructive criticism, advertising is not the right industry for you. And if you are going to take someone’s creative outflow and take it personally at that, you must be weak of mind. But then again, I guess it’s the same bunch that believes the bullshit they sell in their ads.
    And my favourite part, from your party disser – Was how she was getting so serious bout you taking a chill pill. Aaaah the magic of misplaced creative anxieties.

  6. Susan says:

    Often we do see that taking them in is a bad idea, but we do it nevertheless to give them a chance and take a chance at sharing some work we’ve been putting away too long. We also think that despite their attitude that we can’t stomach it would be good to have fresh young ideas and perspectives. But often the attitude fizzles out into a rude silence once they realize that work is not what they wanted it to be.

  7. Pooja Pillai says:

    It’s not even just the interns! Even when you hire someone as a full-time employee, they flake on work, refuse to take on assigments and turn their nose up at seemingly ‘petty’ jobs. when I was working with a newspaper, one of the new members of our team refused to work on stories assigned to her or made up excuses about why she couldn’t do them. And worse? She wasn’t the only new employee who had this bad attitude.

  8. I think the greatest problem that people who belong to the earlier generation face is that they are unable to accept a generation that is ” not like us”. Of course the current generation is different in attitude, ability and exposure from the earlier ones. I think as someone who has spent over three decades in advertising i think it is extremely important to understand that things have changed and the people have a life other than advertising. My son works in a law firm and never gets home before the milkman. But he gets paid obscenely by advertising standards at . least. If you pay peanuts… Chill, accept them, let them take work home if necessary and dont think too much of the good old days.
    Ramanujam Sridhar

  9. Ashima Misri says:

    Hey Mukta,

    You are definitely not the only one running into these ‘kids’. This is not unique to your industry.

    I think the problem is this new belief system – that every action must be instantly gratified and unfortunately, no maturity/experience to understand that neither life nor work (or anything in between) works that way. There are possibly many contributing factors – family, education system, technology.

    All arguments are valid to an extent – you should be a better leader, what’s wrong with having a life, young blood means fresh ideas etc. But in my experience, even when you create a reasonable and fair work environment, it doesn’t mean that people automatically change their attitudes and suddenly start taking their work seriously.

    At the end of the day, learning, scaling and succeeding at something you do needs focus, sincerity and ever so often, some initiative. These values are very fundamental to a person and its very very difficult to teach someone these.

    And honestly, this word ‘CHILL’ seems sums up the state of this nation as far as I am concerned.

    I am glad you wrote this article.

    Thanks,
    Ashima

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