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  • Alex Priest 1:14 pm on August 17, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , cea, , fall, independence, nms, parttime, responsibility,   

    Fewer Hours… More Responsibility? 

    Certainly looks that way!

    It’s been a tumultuous couple weeks here at CEA. All in a good way, but just a little crazy. My supervisor–and now good friend–moved on to a new job last Friday with New Media Strategies and now I’m finding myself increasingly independent, and with more and more projects on my plate!

    I’m thrilled! Never before have I had an internship that really provides me with this level of independence and responsibility, and individual control over the projects I’m working on. Of course I’m still asking plenty of questions and getting permission for the big things, but this is the first time I’ve really felt like the work I’m putting in is coming out with some real results.

    That’s one reason I’m almost a little sad that I’ll be switching to part time in less than a week, going from about 40 hours a week to almost half that. But at the same time I already get the feeling that, while my hours will be less, my responsibilities and independence will remain largely the same. It might mean work is going to be a little more frantic to get things done, but I’ll just have to kick my butt into gear and work hard to be productive each and every single minute I’m in the office (not that I don’t try to do that all the time!).

    The next few weeks will be interesting as our office hires someone to take my former supervisor’s place, and as we get closer and closer to the biggest events of the year for the CEA. Add in school, other jobs, and on-campus responsibilities, and I’ve got the making for a hectic semester but I’m excited about it nonetheless. In my experience, the busier I get the more rewarding I find my experiences–I’m sure this semester will be no different!

  • Alex Priest 12:57 pm on August 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: americanlegacy, at will, cea, contract, , , letter, , quit, , senate, , theawl, unpaid   

    Don’t Be Afraid to Say “I Quit” To a Crap Internship 

    Remember how, at the beginning of your internship, you most likely signed a short contract saying you were an “at will” employee? You know how this means that you can be terminated–or that you can quit–for any time or any reason? Well one intern took this to heart, the quitting part, anyway. Check it out, courtesy of The Awl:

    From: [REDACTED]
    Date: Mon, Aug 2, 2010 at 12:34 AM
    To: [THE BOSS]


    This is not going to work out. After last week, I can no longer in good conscience stay at [NAME OF PUBLICATION]. I don’t think making bar graphs and quoting other websites is going to make me be a better writer. I quit.



    Now this got me thinking. The first reaction to this kind of letter might be, oh, what a spoiled little intern. But really, are they so spoiled? Was that intern really out of line with that kind of letter? I’m not so sure. There is absolutely something to be said for being a hard worker, sticking it out, holding true to your commitment, and networking within any high-profile organization. But it’s not hard for me to envision a scenario where it might just not be worth it.

    I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to have some incredible internships, on Capitol Hill, with the American Legacy Foundation, with MS&L PR, and now with the Consumer Electronics Association. That said, had any of these internships been unpaid and not lived up to my expectations, I may have been tempted to write a similar letter of my own. But I will emphasize, this is especially in the case of unpaid internships.

    The legality and ethics of unpaid internships has been in question for some time. While I can’t realistically say I expect unpaid internships to disappear anytime soon, I can definitely say there should be an expectation of legitimate work and learning to take place in an unpaid internship. After all, if you aren’t making money, you should be at least learning something and improving your skills–otherwise what’s the point?

    In the case of the letter above, the intern makes an excellent point. “Making bar graphs and quoting other websites,” in all likelihood, will not make him or her a better writer. Those are skills any intern with half a brain already has, and there’s no excuse for any organization to be handing interns such menial tasks (except perhaps very infrequently). If that internship was making him or her connections and giving them access to people in a high-profile organization that they might not have had access to otherwise, then there’s probably some value you there. If not… well then good for them.

    My point? Interns–if you get stuck with a crap unpaid internship, don’t do it just for that extra line on your resume. Call it quits early on (don’t wait two months into your internship) with a well-written, concise letter like above (although perhaps more polite), and then tell that story next time you interview for an internship, they might very well be impressed. Intern employers–don’t be jerks.

    Update: Great points in the comments by AU Career Center advisor Marie Spaulding–I couldn’t agree more! There’s a lot to consider in a situation like this (see below).

    • Marie Spaulding 2:02 pm on August 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply


      While I understand the frustration the intern in question (let’s call him Gary) expressed, I suggest other options Gary might try before quitting.

      If Gary were an AU student, whether or not he had registered to earn credit for the internship, he ought to take advantage of the resources of the AU Career Center to discuss the situation. If he contacted one of the Career Advisors, I, as an advisor, would ask if Gary had met with his supervisor to express his desire to apply his research, analytical, presentation… skills to benefit the employer. And, Gary ought to refer to the ‘contract’ or job description details to remind the employer what he had detailed as the projects Gary would tackle during his internship.

      If Gary had a conversation with his employer and still did not get some new projects or duties, I would urge him to let me know so that we could discuss other options.

      Quitting may appear to be noble, but employers do not forget and they talk to each other. Washington is a small place where word travels fast. And, to be honest, all of us run into situations like the one described during our work lives and we need to learn how to remedy them, if at all possible.

      • Alex Priest 2:19 pm on August 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Couldn’t agree more. I’m definitely *not* advocating quitting except for in extraordinary situations. And you make great points about utilizing the resources at our disposal in terms of the career center, etc. (congrats on the recent ranking, by the way!).

        Given the limited information given in the letter, I made some assumptions to fit the theme of my post–namely, that “Gary” had already evaluated the situation and gone through the advising process.

        You also make a great point about employers talking to each other. But that said, people quit their jobs every day because they don’t like them–that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just depends on how you go out. I would *not* recommend burning bridges like “Gary” did, obviously, but I’m not so sure quitting an internship should be altogether thrown out as an option, either.

    • Francine Blume 2:10 pm on August 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Alex!! Have we taught you nothing!

      You shouldn’t be stuck in a crap internship, but there’s a process. FIRST, know what you’re getting into before you start. A solid position description is 1000 times better than “work on some projects.” If you have chosen wisely and it still just clerical, ask for more substantive work. If you’re getting credit, involve the Career Center and/or your faculty to help lobby for you. If there’s no one to give it to you, or it isn’t going to happen, GIVE 2 WEEKS NOTICE, explaining graciously that it isn’t what you expected, that you needed more substance, but thanking them for the opportunity. NEVER burn bridges. It’s a small town and a small world. I had a project assistant suddenly quit on me ten years ago, and wasn’t I delighted to reject her application when she applied for another job years later in another city!

      You should never be stuck in an unpaid, clerical internship. But if you end up in that situation, leave gracefully.

      • Alex Priest 2:46 pm on August 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Totally, totally agree. Just using this letter as a conversation starter… it worked! =P

      • Bee W 1:10 am on April 15, 2011 Permalink | Reply

        You rejected her application? If the lady was wrong for leaving, then two wrongs definitely don’t make a right. Spitefulness is never a good quality. There are no ifs ands or buts to justify it.

    • The HR Intern 4:51 pm on August 3, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      I’d agree with what Marie laid out above. The best course of action is definitely being up front with your supervisor and having a conversation about what you’re looking for and how you can work with the supervisor to better the organization while enhancing your own skills.

      And as much as I love the tone of the e-mail (and I’m sure everyone’s been there – fond memories of doing nothing but scanning documents for a summer are coming back to me…but I digress), I think maybe you should be a little more civil in the way you handle the resignation. I feel like approaching the supervisor and thanking them for the opportunity before proceeding to explain why it’s not exactly what you’re looking for may come across better. Employers do talk and it’s not the kind of reputation you want hanging around you.

      Nice entry! Love the topic!

      • Alex Priest 2:47 pm on August 4, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for your comment! I thought this would spark a good discussion, and I’m glad it did. Lots to think about in that type of situation. Like I said in my entry, I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate with my internships–here’s hoping most of us never wind up in that situation at all!

  • Alex Priest 9:11 am on July 29, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cea, , company, , games, , , kickball, , outdoors, park, picnic   

    What A Day For a (Company) Picnic 

    I’ll come right out and say it: I’m not a company picnic kind of guy.

    In fact, I’m rarely a fan of any event, meeting, party, picnic or otherwise that is designed to “get me to meet people,” unless I’m attending of my own accord. I’m a self-starter, a go-getter, a networker–I don’t need these events to meet people, right? Much less people in my own company. Well, not entirely true.

    Let me preface this, too, by saying, it’s been a rough week. I’ve had back pain since the end of last week (pulled a strange muscle), I came down with a nasty cough over the weekend, and the heat hasn’t been kind to us in our non-air conditioned apartment in the past couple weeks (although it’s definitely not as bad as it sounds!).

    With all of this, I approached the company picnic with already low expectations, and once I realized my back wasn’t quite back in shape enough to join the kickball tournament, I knew it was going to largely be a hot day of sitting around, eating too much food, and in general watching other people have a good time.

    Alright, you’re probably thinking, what’s the point, here?

    It wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. I suspect I’ll never be a company-picnic-kind-of-guy, but there’s a lesson to be learned in every experience and this was no exception.

    The afternoon out at the park gave me an opportunity to meet a few people I hadn’t had the chance to, and put some faces with some names. It gave me a chance to chat with the other interns, get to know some other co-workers, and help out at a company-wide event. And if nothing else, it made me remember that it’s always important to make the best of less-than-awesome situations.

    Was it hot? Sure. Was I feeling great? Not particularly. Was it an afternoon of billable time spent outside with new friends? Yes it was.

    I may not be a company-picnic-kind-of-guy, but I’d gladly do it again.

  • Alex Priest 2:19 am on July 11, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , cea, cte, , , , meeting   

    The Big Idea 

    In past internships I’ve always had opportunities to voice my opinion and contribute my ideas, but never so much as I did in a recent meeting at my current internship with the CEA.

    Without divulging too many exciting details–soon the CEA will be announcing a new membership category for individuals (the “Consumer Technology Enthusiast”). Part of my job in this internship has been to work with our team and our ad agency to develop a campaign for promoting this new membership category as we lead up to and execute the launch later this year.

    Just recently, our agency brought all of their team and invited approximately 20 CEA staff for a brainstorming session, myself included. We were instructed to bring along three ideas, written on three separate index cards.

    Index cards in hand, myself and one other intern joined in the meeting and the entire room proceeded to “present” their ideas, one by one, in front of the entire group. After that we all placed our cards on the wall, where everyone in the room voted on ideas using stickers, and then we proceeded to further develop some of these ideas to come up with three main concepts.

    My idea was one of those three final concepts. And not only that, but it was a central feature of the final campaign, the “best” one as voted on by the group.

    I was, needless to say, a little shocked, but also thrilled and excited. Having the opportunity to get up there and present my idea in front of the group–me being “just” an intern–was a great experience and one that I feel really validated me as part of the team.

    Just goes to show, the title “intern” is misleading. And I think it’s possibly the most misleading in marketing, public relations, and today’s digital communications. More and more I’m noticing that my fellow young colleagues and myself tend to have the big ideas, the successful ideas, and the ones that work in today’s modern digital world. Hopefully that’s a sign of good things to come when we all finally enter the “real” world.

  • Alex Priest 2:31 pm on June 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cea, , , facebook, , , , , theory, web   

    Just How Thin IS The “Thin Line” Between Marketing and PR 

    One of my first lessons at the CEA? There’s more to differentiate marketing and PR than I previously thought. I still believe it’s a pretty thin line (and always getting thinner), but it’s been fascinating to see things from a marketing perspective as opposed to communications.

    In the past, as I’ve said before, most of my internships have been in communication departments and at a PR agency, always bordering on marketing, but never enough for me to call myself a “marketing intern.” At CEA, that’s my title, and the differences are becoming more clear to me every day.

    (More …)

    • ashleywolos 1:34 am on June 16, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Hey Alex,
      I totally understand what you mean. For the past year I interned at a marketing, advertising & PR firm but worked mostly on marketing and advertising whereas now my current internship is specifically in a Comm department. It’s hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it. While the line still exists it’s more like a dotted line that has occasionally has some solid segments occasionally.

  • Alex Priest 9:18 am on June 7, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , bicycling, cea, ces, , exercise, , pace,   

    A Change of Pace 

    So I’m settling in at my new internship and wow, it is a change of pace. In a good way, though, of course!

    Not only am I doing differing kinds of work at the CEA, but it’s also a very different kind of organization than any other that I’ve worked at in the past. The CEA is big–they have a beautiful building in Crystal City, lots of amazing resources, and a huge and talented team. It’s also organized; no more scrambling to find old records, archives, or juggling assignments not related to my actual job function. At CEA they’ve got their stuff together, and things just seem to work.

    That’s not belittle my past internships–they were all fantastic too!–nor do I want to appear naive. Every place of employment has its ups and downs, and I’m sure not everything always runs smoothly at the CEA. Just as it was in the Senate Majority Leader’s office on Capitol Hill, at the American Legacy Foundation, and at MS&L, there are always hiccups along the way. But that said, so far I’ve been extremely impressed, and I’m thrilled to part of such a unique and sophisticated organization.

    (More …)

  • Alex Priest 1:30 pm on May 24, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: cea, , , , summer, techchange   

    The End and New Beginnings 

    Since I’ve last written, much has happened–and rest assured, I’ll have plenty to talk about over the coming weeks. This past Wednesday was my final day interning at MS&L PR (which was a great experience, in case you missed my earlier posts!). Now I’m on to bigger (sort of) and better (hopefully!) things.

    This Wednesday I’ll begin work interning in the marketing department of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), organizer of the Consumer Electronics Show, held every January in Las Vegas. I think this is going to be an amazing opportunity, and something a little different from what I’ve done before. In the past my internships have been primarily communications and PR focused (appropriate for my B.A. in Communications), but this one fits well with my B.S. in Business and Marketing. I’m looking forward to doing more hands-on work, designing and creating things for our audiences to see, instead of doing so much of the background work, as I have in the past.

    In addition to my work at the CEA this summer I’ve also begun my first non-internship! My first job without “intern” in the title, I am now officially the Director of Social Media at a new organization called TechChange. We’ll be launching our social media presence–and getting the whole organization off the ground–in the coming weeks, and I’ll be sure to mention that on here as well.

    Now that we’re all caught up, I’m also resolving to write more here! With all that I’ve got going on in the coming weeks and months, I know I’ll be learning valuable lessons in the intern world each and every single day. Rest assured, I’ll do my best to capture them here. Thanks for reading!

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