Women’s mags: not all lip gloss and smiles

I have been interning at a variety of magazines since graduating from university last year. Currently I’ve been seeking internships in women’s mags as that is my chosen field. It’s a really competitive area, but when I managed to land a 5 week placement with a well-known mag – ohmygod so excited! I knew the name would look great on my CV. I was super excited but that excitement quickly wore off once I got there.

My first day, I was eased in. Logged in the new beauty products that had come in for the team, called and e-mailed some PRs about samples and press releases and the (never done before) activity of getting the lunch for the boss. I know as an intern I’m expected to do the dirty work, do the things the paid can’t be bothered to do but really? I was interning in a building which happens to have an assortment of food places situated at the bottom – several floors down. It would have taken her FIVE minutes to get in the lift, walk out the door and into the take-away but nope, instead she handed me £10 and asked me to buy her some lunch. I was cool with that, thinking it was a one off – it happened again the next day too.

Now the beauty team claim to REALLY need an intern, they are supposed to be an important part of the team. First of all, my desk was nowhere near the teams, I was given no temporary e-mail, had to use my own personal one which created problems at later dates when contacting PRs. The team were nice enough but the work…there wasn’t much.  At a push, I was busy for half to 3/4 of the morning with logging the new products and then would have to spend most of the day asking for something to do.

During the time I actually spent with the team I asked to leave early on a few occasions – once because of the riots, another for a family member’s birthday and I was REALLY sick in my third (and final) week. They knew I wasn’t feeling too hot, but they didn’t care. I was told I couldn’t leave early on a Wednesday (it was blatant I wasn’t well and shouldn’t have really gone in but I did still) until I had finished everything. I finished as much as I possibly could and was finally allowed to leave at 3pm – not really worth it but I was home and in bed by 4:30pm. I called in sick for the Thursday as I wanted to get better but when I e-mailed my superior to say I was feeling rough, I received an angry reply about how I’d had too much time off and asked to send over the information for some props for a shoot – not ‘hope you feel better, see you Friday.’

I didn’t even rest on that day as I was on the phone trying to find a prop, which was much harder to find than anticipated. The Beauty Director finally e-mailed me at 4pm to say ‘don’t worry, we have some – for free.” WHAT, I’d spent the entire day on the computer and phone, not sleeping and resting to battle my cold. 

The Friday morning I came in to a desk piled up with products – completely unnecessary to be honest. They could have neatly put all of the new bags to one side of my desk but they had just thrown them all over the chair and computer area which meant I had to spend the first ten minutes of my morning cleaning up the desk so I could actually GET to my computer. The team arrived gone 10am and I was promptly asked to go downstairs to get a Starbucks for one of the writers – a Starbucks she would have just walked past. I spent the afternoon of that Friday doing absolutely nothing, I’d asked around 5 times for something but there was nothing.

The icing on the cake was that the director strolled into the office at 5:30pm after being on a shoot all day and interviewing a celebrity. Instead of talking to me, she was met by one of the fashion team where they tried on some new shoes for a wedding and gossiped about the celebrity etc – during office hours. The previous day the director had asked to chat with me, now if it was something important you might put it higher on your list than trying on your Jimmy Choos and gushing about your wedding next year!

I left the office gone 6pm as I had just been sitting idly for the previous two hours, waiting to talk to my superior. She was busy chatting about a famous singer so I didn’t see it my place to interrupt an important conversation…I checked my e-mail that Friday evening to find I had been fired. She had emailed me at 7:30pm to say I had made dozens of mistakes (she only gave one example), that I had asked to leave early too many times (3 times over 3 weeks) and in general I wasn’t enthusiastic or hard working enough. 

I was GUTTED. I take my placements as a job, professional and I always do my best. She hadn’t bothered to even say hello to me when she eventually strolled in yet I was being told I was the one not making an effort? She had even made it seem like I was trying to steal expensive products form the cupboard (wouldn’t even imagine doing such a thing). I replied to her e-mail that night but guess what? It’s been nearly two weeks and she hasn’t contacted me. I had to phone the assistant in the end to get some answers – I didn’t think you could really be booted from an internship for not being chatty enough. 

I would love to warn people about this person but unfortunately I can’t do it on my own blog without sabotaging my future career. If I had been making obvious mistakes then why had no one informed me before? I have always thought that internships are for learning and to be taught but I wasn’t taught anything. The only thing I’ve come away with is my confidence in a pile of rubble. They didn’t help me in the slightest and I just needed to get this out there!


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13 Responses to “Women’s mags: not all lip gloss and smiles”

  1. 1 emily bonin 09/07/2011 at 9:00 pm

    Dear Interns Anonymous,

    Publishing this type of response to an internship really gives hardworking interns a bad name.

    While I believe passionately that internships are out of hand, and often exploitative, this girl has amply proven that she did not do her best. Which is fine. Not everyone gives 100 percent 100 percent of the time.

    But accusing her supervisor of unjust treatment is totally exaggerated. If I were her supervisor, I’d have fired her too. Did she graduate from Oxbridge or an American Ivy League school? Where on earth is this sense of entitlement, in which this piece is drenched, come from?

    1. If you have a 5 week placement, you don’t call in sick unless you have CHOLERA. period. And yes, dear, 3 times in 3 weeks is ONCE per week. And that is far too much, for someone not suffering from AIDS, cholera or TB. If you can’t go for 3 weeks (15 days) without having some sort of prima donna episode, well, I can’t blame your boss. There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of stamina.

    (By the way, birthdays come every year. And I assume this person has more than 1 family member. Surely one could have said, “I ll join you after 6 pm because I cannot leave until 6 pm.”)

    2. Regarding: “They could have neatly put all of the new bags to one side of my desk but they had just thrown them all over the chair and computer area which meant I had to spend the first ten minutes of my morning cleaning up the desk so I could actually GET to my computer.”

    I am sorry, honey, but if you don’t have that much to do and you have to take 10 minutes to make your space livable one morning, that’s fine. YOU ARE AN INTERN, not the Publisher.

    3.. Regarding these complaints:
    ** “She hadn’t bothered to even say hello to me when she eventually strolled in yet I was being told I was the one not making an effort?”

    ** “The icing on the cake was that the director strolled into the office at 5:30pm after being on a shoot all day and interviewing a celebrity. Instead of talking to me, she was met by one of the fashion team where they tried on some new shoes for a wedding and gossiped about the celebrity etc – during office hours. The previous day the director had asked to chat with me, now if it was something important you might put it higher on your list than trying on your Jimmy Choos and gushing about your wedding next year!”

    This is totally ridiculous… YOU are on a lower level… she says hi to you when SHE FEELS like it and that is how the world works. She has worked hard to get where she is and if she bloody well doesn’t talk to you when it’s personally convenient for you then that’s how the world works.

    I think this girl needs to realize that the world does not revolve around her. And no, I don’t think she seems ready for the workforce and I don’t doubt her superior noticed that too.

    Everyone at the office was probably totally sick of this whiner.

    • 2 Rachael Glaser 10/20/2011 at 4:01 pm

      Perhaps there was an issue of compatability here. I know that it is not always easy but it is important to have an interview,even for a short internship. Maybe she would have realised that the place didnt suit her

    • 3 Danielle Ryan 07/01/2013 at 1:48 pm

      Yes, I agree, it does sound like she was acting entitled and asking to be let off early three times in three weeks is way too much. Her complaints did seem rather tame and it doesn’t sound like anything truly horrific.

      But that’s where I part ways with you on this.

      With regard to what you said about the intern being on a lower level and superiors saying hello only when they feel like it…totally wrong.

      This is basic human decency. The intern in an office is often unpaid, as this girl was, and they deserve respect, just like any other member of staff in the office.

      As a paid or unpaid intern (and I’ve been both), you should expect to be treated in a friendly and positive manner, and not looked down on as if you’re some sort of lower specimen. Higher-ups in the company need to remember a time when they were on the bottom rung and try to have some understanding.

      They MUST do everything in their power to train an intern in their duties and to make them feel like a valuable part of the team. That is non-negotiable. Internships are a two-way street. The intern offers free (or underpaid) labor, and the employer offers an opportunity for the intern to see how a functional, respectful, professional workplace should operate.

      It’s not just about the intern getting something out of the arrangement, because if the employer didn’t need the extra help, they wouldn’t be looking for interns. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement which requires mutual respect.

  2. 4 anon 09/08/2011 at 10:26 pm

    Emily – regarding your comment above – you are completely off the mark. I’ll admit that this intern does seem to have had high expectations of her internship, but why not? She is working for free after all. Something that is technically illegal. It is a mutually beneficial relationship, meaning that BOTH sides have to be grateful for the opportunity. Her reasons for leaving early are perfectly valid. I am happily no longer an intern and I regularly leave early for these reasons, and less valid ones. And I’m paid to be there, unlike an intern who is there VOLUNTEERING their time.

    Employed people seem to take great pleasure in accusing interns of ‘entitlement’ but do you not remember what it is like not to have a job? To have worked hard your whole life, to have great qualifications and skills, to be willing and able to perform a job to a high standard – as good as anyone who is already employed – but to have no decent opportunities for a job or even relevant work experience? I was dying of impatience before I got my job! Interns are terribly mistreated, just because the start of your career was hard, it doesn’t mean everyone should have to suffer.

  3. 5 anon 09/11/2011 at 12:47 am

    Are you for real? You sound like a total nightmare to work with – put in a bit more effort next time and you might see some rewards. Yes you are working for free, but let’s face it, degrees are a dime a dozen now, and the industry you want to enter is highly competitve. At the end of the day you did nothing to convince them that you are special enough to bother with and showed no initiative. Try a local charity shop next time – I am sure there a lovely old lady will offer you a cuppa and some home made cake when you call in sick with a cold.

  4. 6 Lucid Lip Gloss 09/26/2011 at 1:50 pm

    Wow that’s the longest comment that I have seen all year!

  5. 7 Fume 09/28/2011 at 10:33 pm

    Hell, If I was on that interns position – I would have slapped that ”’supervisor’s” face and kicked her in her stomach. I would have degraded that b**** until they called the ******* security to get me.

  6. 8 Squid 09/30/2011 at 3:10 pm

    What skills? What skills does a recent uni grad have that make her entitled to any sort of preferential treatment? Can she extract funding from Rupert Murdoch? Can she sell two-page spreads to advertisers? Can she ring De La Renta on his personal cellphone and ask for an exclusive interview? What can she actually DO that a hobo off the street can’t do?

    By giving you the opportunity to put their brand on your CV, that magazine was giving you an opportunity to enter this highly competitive labour market by schmoozing and brown nosing your way through. This is 90% what you do on an internship. The fact that you have an influential name on your CV means that you know influential people and that those influential people like you enough to let you loiter around their office for a month – nobody cares about anything else.

    I completely agree with the first comment, but I would like to add that Oxbridge and Ivy League grads would never act as stupid as this, because they are bright people and understand the simple maxim, no value=no voice.

  7. 9 Netbook Tablet 10/04/2011 at 3:46 am

    All is fair in love and war… and in the office!

  8. 10 ginandmilkthings 10/14/2011 at 1:11 am

    You are obviously really spoiled. This is normal working life and your colleagues are not being rude. Get used to it.

  9. 11 Anon2 02/02/2012 at 4:26 pm

    I completely agree with Emily in the first comment. This intern sounds dreadful. And may I just point out that she wanted to leave early 3 times in 3 weeks and then called in sick as well – that’s 4 absences in 3 weeks. I used to work in a place that had a new intern every fortnight, and out of the 30 or so I met each year, they were almost all nice, friendly, hardworking people who kind of blended together after a while. I remember one girl vividly because she called in sick repeatedly, left early twice claiming to have been sick, and once was sent to take something to a colleague’s office, got lost and went home instead of coming back to the office – at 10am. She had a mobile, she could have called for directions, and we only realised she’d gone AWOL when the colleague phoned to ask where she was, at which point the girl wouldn’t answer her phone and only returned our calls about 4pm that day. We didn’t sack her, but we didn’t give her a reference either.

  10. 12 lol 02/25/2012 at 12:15 am

    you really don’t have what it takes to cut it in the world of magazines. sorry, dear. this made me laugh. what a whiner

  11. 13 Nell 10/21/2012 at 11:51 pm

    Whilst three early leavings in three weeks does seem excessive, in fairness she was asking to leave early because of the London Riots. Wanting to go home early so you don’t have to walk the streets alone at night is fair. My paid employment was told by the police to close 4 hours earlier than usual… and we weren’t particularly close to the worst hit areas.

    Secondly, if she really only had data entry to do in the morning (which she finished well before midday), and they would not give her anything else to do, then it does seem a bit ridiculous that when she was ill they would not let her leave. Leaving early for a birthday does seem a little presumptuous, but if she was told every time EXCEPT when she was ill that there was nothing to do, then that seems like double standards.

    Furthermore, it is extremely unprofessional, even for a temporary member of staff, to not have an email address with the company. Even if it is just intern@… it means all the emails are in one place, there is no need to contact people who left ages ago for details of something, and it also means there is less chance of emails being disregarded by other companies because the email address is not affiliated to a specific company.

    Those saying this person doesn’t have what it takes to be in the magazine industry, you are extremely narrow minded. You were not there at the internship. You do not know how this person was treated as it happened. How would you feel if you were told you could not leave home early despite the fact there was major rioting sweeping London? A number of awful things could happen to you on your commute home, and with riot police on the streets, buildings being set alight for a laugh and people being hospitalised, would you not just want to get home?

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