Friday, April 17, 2015

the way I see it: get your own coffee.

A few years ago during an internship, we were strongly encouraged to turn down requests we fetch coffee or run other errands for our managers. The reason, they said, was that we were there as interns to learn how to work in a national newsroom. Managers were encouraged to not use intern as errand-runners.

I can't speak for other interns, but I was never asked to do things like make or buy coffee. One of my managers said to me on the first day, "You're here to learn, so if there's down time, then don't be shy to ask us for something to do." The other manager said he remembered having to get coffee daily for the executives when he was an intern and he vowed not to do that to interns in the future if he was ever lucky enough to be in a position to have interns.

Once I went with another intern to help her get coffee for her department that did require her to do it as part of her internship, and it was time consuming (going to Starbucks at lunch hour in DC to pick up 15 coffee orders = at least 45 minutes) and took away time that could've been spent being useful in another work-related capacity. It was frustrating that that was what was expected of her. There were times they'd send her to get coffee during editorial meetings, and she would miss out on those meetings, which were important to production.

I've never been in favor of sending interns to get coffee, and an informal poll of a few colleagues and friends tells me that I'm not totally crazy for taking this stand. And I'm sure I'll ruffle the feathers of people who think that being sent on coffee runs is part of "paying your dues," but I don't think we should make people do the things we hated doing just because we were treated that way too. I reject the idea that "everyone's had to do it in their internship" is a valid reason to send an underpaid (or, in some cases, unpaid) student or new graduate for a Starbucks run. There are free coffee machines in the kitchen for a reason--quality, be damned. You can get your chai latte later yourself.

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