I am not Anna Wintour, but you better believe I run Swagger New York like a devil in dunks. At just two years old, we’ve been able to accomplish a lot – 220,000 Facebook fans, mega music interviews, serious street style hits – but our rise hasn’t been all smooth. We’ve had our rough patches like any start-up, our fair share of “we have no money!” moments, but even worse, we’ve had a handful of interns from hell.
What is up with intern entitlement these days? I’m only 27, but it seems that kids who have just rolled out of their college beds and into the real world offices are carrying a career-breaking chip on their shoulders; one I can’t recall sharing just six years ago. At Swagger, I’ve had an intern go from telling me that she was “dying to work with a brand that was about providing experiences, and not ordering for coffee” to telling me (with no prior editorial experience) that she “could do a better job than I could at building the brand.” And the next semester, an intern tried hard to explain how he “just forgot” about a high-profile shoot we planned.
There’s no time to deal with that sort of crazy, so both kids were let go. And it doesn’t seem like I’m the only publisher facing youngin’ issues. Recently at The Wall Street Journal, an intern was fired for making up false sources at the prestigious paper which the WSJ was forced to embarrassingly rescind days later. And at the News Journal, a newly minted employee was fired before he even started, after sending out a boastful press release across the wire about his skills. The gall of 20-somethings these days is actually laughable at times.
What happened to busting your butt for an amazing experience? The days of wanting to get your foot in the door so badly that grabbing coffee was totally fine, as was sitting behind a computer as long as the Editor actually knew your name? In such a tough employment market, internships are the new jobs, so I, and the other Editors/CEOs, are going to need our unemployed (and sometimes under-experienced) staff to act like it.
As a business owner, I love the interns I work with, but I don’t feel that I owe them anything. I do, however, have a responsibility to help them learn and become successful within a cutthroat industry. I promise to make them work hard, to push them beyond their comfort zone in the field, and give them the tools and contacts they need to land a gig at Swagger, or at another major brand. To me, that promise is much more valuable than taking a check from a job that could care less about your future plans. But I will only stick my neck out for those who want to show up, be present at all times, and hustle; the interns who want ‘it’ for me and themselves. So no acting like you’re worth more than free just because you went to a $50k/year college (guess what: so did I), or not giving my brand your all because, after all, “it’s just an internship.” With that attitude, you’ll never make it in New York.
And if you think I’m wrong, feel free to take the jobs knocking at your door. But until you do, take a seat and let me teach you how to make it in America without your dad’s money.
*PS – All my current interns are rockstars.