I have no money and I feel like I may be missing out on career growth because of it. I recently graduated college and landed an internship with a fashion magazine. It is my dream position and although I am putting in a ridiculous amount of time, I am learning every day and growing in my understanding of the industry. My hope is to be hired on full-time by the magazine after my internship in a year. I am very grateful for this internship and believe it will lead to more opportunities. But I am making pennies. My parents cut me off financially after college and I am making just over minimum-wage. I share rent with two others and feel like after groceries and bills are paid I have next to nothing. The problem is not being able to pursue opportunities in this career because I can hardly even pay for gin and tonic at the bar. I have had to turn down several outings with senior staff from the magazine because I would be mortified ordering a water or be put in an awkward position where I felt like I had to buy someone else a drink in return. And like any job out of college I have colleagues who are also competing for the full-time position, many who have been able to do happy hours and additional business functions where I feel I cannot. Do you have any recommendations on how I can position myself to be social without the spending? How do I continue relationship building with colleagues outside of the office without breaking my already broke bank?
Dear Broke Intern,
Congratulations on landing your dream internship! I too had the good fortune to land a dream PR internship following college. It gave me an incredible foundation of learning and experience to start my career. In a recent interview in Fortune Magazine, Dan Rosensweig, CEO of Chegg explained, “I tell all of our interns to focus on three things: pursue every opportunity, earn trust by seizing the small stuff, and always be thinking of ways to remain innovative. It’s also important for them to build relationships with their colleagues. Take a real interest in learning about the people who already work at the company–which of course means asking more questions (and listening to the answers).” You want to get to know colleagues within your company, but need to figure out budget friendly ways to do so. So let’s get creative.
Most people love to talk about themselves, cocktail or not.
You can still be intentional about getting to know your colleagues without picking up a round of martinis. See if a colleague wants to go on a walk to check out the latest buzzed about window display, or if you know a fashion industry event is approaching reach out to colleagues and see if anyone would be interested in joining you and then save up! Most of your colleagues started exactly in your position so don’t be embarrassed by your PB& J. It may take a little more creativity in planning, but don’t get discouraged. Most people love to talk about themselves, cocktail or not. And if by chance you do catch yourself floating post-work to a bar, pop a lime in that water and keep chatting away. You’ll feel better in the morning anyway.
Dear Broke Intern,
Welcome to the real world. Living on minimum wage or just above is the reality for many individuals and families in the US and abroad. For you, having the opportunity to grow your employment into a successful career is one that many others do not have. Being school poor (or internship poor) is quite different from poor poor. And it also sounds like your parents were financially supportive all the way through college. Through the opportunities you have been able to pursue, including college and this internship, you are well positioned to become a higher earner in the future and will likely never find yourself in the position of needing to panhandle for a drink again. With that being said, you are not other people. You are you. And it sounds like this situation is quite stressful for you. It is limiting your ability to expand your connections at work through social interactions leaving you feeling somewhat powerless.
…you are well positioned to become a higher earner in the future and will likely never find yourself in the position of needing to panhandle for a drink again.
With that being said, you are not other people. You are you. And it sounds like this situation is stressful for you. It is limiting your ability to expand your connections at work through social interactions leaving you feeling somewhat powerless. First, I would consider practical changes such as better money management. One of the first things Kate and I had to learn in our marriage was budgeting. We were tight on money at the time and needed to be able to account for our spending. As we watched our money closer, we were able to spend it more wisely and truly spend our money in the places it mattered. There are good and free resources out there including mint.com, budgetsimple.com, and everydollar.com.
If you are able to skimp in certain areas of spending, my guess is that you can find a gin martini in your budget every now and then. The other thing to consider is that although several other interns may be financially supported by spouse or family, my guess is that most are in the same boat as you. Seek them out. Suggest low cost ways to spend time together including going to concerts in the park or a potluck dinner at someone’s house. Lastly, also consider the possibility of new friends outside of work too. Getting away from the competition of intern colleagues and the pressure of mingling with your boss, may allow you to relax in order to actually enjoy a night on the town.