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The link between college and corporate

Two years ago, I was involved with an entrepreneurial opportunity that seemed almost too good to be true. All I had to do was convince homeowners to purchase a “cosmetic upgrade” to their home, hire a small team to perform this upgrade, and complete each transaction. My superiors were very personable, the pay was fantastic, and my work all took place near my home. The commute to Charlotte from Columbia was a little tough, but I worked out a weekend work schedule. The company I was working for had extremely high standards, yet I wasn’t worried about my ability to meet them. After all, the internship was sales-oriented, and I knew most of the people near my home (small town). However, things would not be going so smoothly for me.

The training portion of the internship ended right at the onset of summer, 2008. At this point, we, the interns, were expected to meet our sales quotas within the next eight weeks. Unfortunately for me (and at least one of my colleagues), this time just happened to coincide with the start of the economic downturn. A manufacturing facility in my sales area closed down, resulting in the elimination of around 500 jobs. Cosmetic upgrades to the home were suddenly out of the question. I papered over 20 neighborhoods with flyers bearing my phone number. I made cold calls from Columbia on weekdays. I knocked on doors. I busted my butt every single weekend from 9 a.m. Saturday morning to 5 p.m. Sunday evening. After six weeks of effort, I had booked a single, minor job amounting to $186, 2% of the way to my quota. I called my supervisor for advice. I explained to him the situation. People in the area simply were not interested in our service. Those who actually wanted the upgrade preferred to do it themselves. My supervisor’s advice: “Try harder.”

I had no clue what I could do to “try harder.” I was doing nothing differently than my fellow interns, yet several of them had already met their quotas. I rewrote my schedule. I examined detailed maps of the area, planning the most efficient routes to take to maximize my flyer distribution. I unofficially declared war on the humble citizens of my sales area. With my car packed with materials, I set out Saturday morning at 6 a.m. and didn’t return home until I had nothing left (around midnight).

I didn’t get a single lead.

I began to develop headaches. I had trouble sleeping at night. My dreams were literally about walking around neighborhoods handing out flyers. My parents told me to take it easy, that it wasn’t worth it to stress myself out. I told them that I couldn’t stop now! I was certain that a big break was right around the corner. Alas, it never came.

By the eighth week, I had done a total of $186 in sales. My headaches were turning into an actual medical problem. I was sleeping for less than 5 hours each night. Realizing that enough was enough, I told my supervisor that I would be, regretfully, withdrawing from the internship. It was early June, and I didn’t want to let any other potential opportunities slip away. I realized that trying to salvage this internship was like trying to bail out the Titanic with a spoon. I turned in my materials, received from my supervisor the weakest handshake I’ve felt to date, and that was that.

In retrospect, I feel that I should have quit my position earlier. “Quitters never win, and winners never quit,” they say. However, there’s a fine line between being a winner and being stubborn. I poured my heart and soul into this internship, and what did I have to show for it? A check for $98, the disrespect of my superiors, and an MRI scan.

So, after participating in the debacle that was my internship, what did I do for the rest of the summer? I worked in a ghost-themed store in Myrtle Beach, SC. I met some of the most interesting people I’ve ever had to pleasure of knowing. I left work every day with a broad smile on my face. I felt honored to collect a paycheck from them, and my former bosses there are still two of my strongest references.

The advice that I seek to impart upon you, dear reader, is to simply be realistic. Yes, it would have been fantastic to have an impressive internship on my resume. Yes, a check for $10,000 at the end of the summer is always nice. But there is no job, internship, or paycheck worth sacrificing your health and well-being for.


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Author: Laura

This is an extremely good life lesson to keep in mind when considering the aspects of a certain internship/work opportunity. I myself have had to ask myself if the headache (literally in my case as well) was worth the pay off. I did work for a client that was extremely difficult to get information from (among other things) and we were on a very short deadline. My superior decides to try and get the information we needed to complete the project from the direct source. The next day, I received a phone call from my client. It was one phone call I wish I’d missed. I have never been yelled at so much in my life! She was extremely upset that we had “gone around her” and “broken the chain of command.” I feel like sometimes people/employers think it’s ok to treat interns with less respect as they would a fellow employee. Her “conversation” as she later called it with my superior was so loud that the other people I was in the car with could hear ever word! I was mortified and never so close to quitting something. There’s nothing worse then pouring yourself into a project and feel so unappreciated. However, my superior stepped in and I no longer met with her by myself. I pieced my pride back together, finished the project and now have a wonderful piece for my portfolio. So for me, the challenging client was worth the time and energy. However, there were many times I questioned its benefits. It’s something that always needs to be considered with ever professional situation. Is it worth it? Will doing this better me as a person and my career aspirations? If not, there are plenty of opportunities out there! Just keep looking for the one that’s right for you and your personal goals!

Author: armil

Advice was well earned and appreciated by readers of your blog.
Truly, sometimes it is when we push ourselves the hardest is when we fall the loudest.
It is always best to take stock of any situation, and assess all possibilities, then be in control.