I’m parked in a high-tech-and-not-very-comfortable coffee shop in downtown Chicago drinking something that was brewed three hours ago while my college-aged son sits in a fancy conference room a block away selling his soul.
Okay, maybe I’m dramatizing this, but he’s caught in the crazy world so many college kids find themselves in as they try to get some experience, build their resumes, and make connections.
I’m talking about those three filthy words every parent abhors.
Unpaid Summer Internship.
He’s spent the last four-plus months working his tail off trying to get his foot in a door. Any door. So, I know I should be grateful—if not excited—that he’s landed face-to-face interviews with two organizations for their highly coveted programs. And I am. Honest.
But, I’m also thinking it’s kind of ironic. I’m the one funding the payroll in this deal, right? This isn’t just a two party transaction. There’s three of us. So forgive me if I sound a little cranky but I think I should have a voice in this matter. Not only do I know this young man better than anyone, I’m the bank.
So, Mr./Ms. Future Employer (and, I use that term loosely since I believe compensation needs to be received in order for there actually to be a legal “employer-employee” relationship), I’d like to share a few things about this young man who sits before you:
1. I hope he’s presenting himself well. I have half a mind to tell you that he was crabby when I woke him up, still relies on me to pick out his tie, didn’t “feel like talking” in the car, and thought I was stupid for suggesting he wear a coat today. The first 90 minutes of the day are not his best moments. Please be patient.
2. He and his siblings started playing a game when they were little. It was called the “Nose Game” and they would play it anytime I asked one of them to help with a chore. So, if I mentioned that I needed help with the dishes, they would all quickly touch their nose with their index finger. The child who was last to touch a nose had to help. The boy you are speaking to almost never lost. Scary thing, he still believes in that game and plays it quite often. Beware.
3. I hope you don’t provide complimentary milk in your break room. He’ll drain all of your company profits.
4. I know this is a summer job so there shouldn’t be any conflict with Duke’s basketball schedule. But, you need to know that—in spite of the fact that he doesn’t attend Duke himself—he’s obsessed with Duke hoops. There is a direct correlation between their basketball program and his mood. Actually, his entire outlook on life. If you happen to be a UNC grad, just stop the interview now. This will never work.
5. I’ve noticed that he’s gradually taken over my bathroom over the last couple of years. I’m not sure what’s wrong with using the one he grew up with. But he likes mine better. And I’m kind of tired of it. Consider locking the door to your office at nights.
6. He likes his back scratched and his feet rubbed. Just say “no.”
7. He is severely color blind. So, if he asks you if his white shirt looks O.K. with his khaki pants, he’s serious. Please don’t laugh. And, don’t expect to have any fashion-related conversations with him. Won’t happen.
8. When he talks about “PBR” he’s not referring to beer drinking or Pabst Blue Ribbon. He has this very bizarre attraction to Professional Bull Riding. I have nothing to do with it and I don’t know where it came from. Just work with it.
9. Despite the fact that he isn’t even old enough to drink, he has actually experienced a lifetime of loss and pain and not only has survived it but has thrived through it. I’m sure that subject won’t come up as you explore his Excel spreadsheet capabilities. He’s one of the wisest people I know. I’m happy to elaborate but need to warn you that I’m very emotional.
10. I’m not sure what your own career objectives are but just a little warning: If I were you I would be very, very nice to my son. There’s a very good chance you may be working for him someday.
Thank you for your time. He—or should I say “we”—look forward to your response.
—Photo Monica Ray/Flickr