UGA grads “have to grind” in post-graduate intern world

Recent University of Georgia graduate, Dorian Ezzard, wakes up at 6 a.m. in New York City to hit the gym, shower, and get dressed before starting the day at her sports endorsements internship. Across the country, UGA graduate, Blake Mitchell, arrives to his Los Angeles film production office around 9 a.m.

These two college graduates share more than their similar work schedules. They have had four to five internships, they work 40-45 hours per week, they live in big cities full of diverse culture, they go to bed around 10:30-11, and they represent the slim success rate of the ambitious and sleep-deprived intern nation.

Ross Perlin, author of “Intern Nation,” says the Millennials comprise an over-worked and exploited generation that competes for internships that do not benefit careers. More young adults ages 25 to 34 move back to their parents’ households than into their own city apartment. About 1.5 million, or 53.6 percent, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 in 2011 were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years, according to a 2012 Atlantic article.

Mitchell and Ezzard would be the first to admit the big city life is exhausting, but even after hours of phone calls and hundreds of e-mails, they still stay in their corporate hubs.

“Even when things are going well, you never feel completely comfortable,” says Ezzard. “Every day is a test but when you want it bad enough, none of that matters.”

Ezzard moved to New York without knowing anyone except who she wanted to become. Ezzard works as an intern for CAA Sports. To reach her dream job of becoming a leading executive in event coordination with a NFL or NBA team she spends 45 hours a week at the office from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. A typical day for Ezzard means always being prepared for the unexpected. She could be researching a company for the Property Sales group, or selecting images of professional athletes to be printed on lunchboxes. Before the day is over, it is a guarantee Ezzard will be pulled into several different directions before the day is over. When the day ends at 6:30 p.m. she takes the subway back home and usually cooks dinner or watches one of her weekly shows until bed.

“If you want to move to New York City,” says Ezzard, “know that you have to grind.”

Ezzard isn’t the only one among her friends to accept an internship after graduation. Some of her friends have done the same to “get their foot in the door at a big company.”

Ezzard was paid for three of her five internships. None of Mitchell’s internships were paid, including time at MGM studios and Double Feature Films. The communications field is so competitive, thinks Mitchell, companies get away with offering unpaid internships. Mitchell knows someone who fabricated a letter of school credit to land an internship working on a T.V. set, free of charge. To balance the toll of taking an unpaid internship, she works part-time at the Disney store to pay her bills, while interning without compensation.

Mitchell’s previous internship resulted in his current position as assistant to the executive vice president of production at Participant Media. He works in the Hollywood culture, but not without his own account of an outrageous intern request. At one of the companies he interned at previous to his current job, there was a producer who dinged her car and wanted it appraised and sent Mitchell to get the quotes.

“One day I spent the entire day, driving her SUV around L.A., when I was 19,” says Mitchell, “I was so nervous, thinking I’m going to wreck this car again. I went all over the place to get quotes. It was the worst situation. They would have been sued if anyone had found out.”

Mitchell enjoys the L.A. lifestyle, albeit fast-paced, that makes a demanding job worthwhile. Besides adjusting time zones, Mitchell’s downsize from a S.U.V to a Prius is one of the transitions he’s made since moving to L.A from Athens, Ga.  He commutes in his Prius to get to work around 9 a.m. His typical day is a “flurry” of arranging meetings, phone calls to executives and producers, and travel plans for his boss. Mitchell is constantly on his e-mail. He even brings lunch to work to eat at his desk to keep working without pausing. Mitchell’s schedule is full, but he owes his job to his internship.

“An internship is a great extended interview to prove that you have what it takes to be hired later on,” says Mitchell. “Most of my friends who are getting jobs out here, it’s because they interned at the place before hand.”

Mitchell advises to be flexible and patient to undergrads peering at the end of the tunnel.

“Put in the hard work, make the connections,” says Mitchell. “Be prepared for hard work and maybe not immediate pay-off.”

Cristina DuQue, a UGA student graduating this May has found a compromise between Mitchell and Ezzard. She is not in an internship or job, but a fellowship. DuQue works at 350.org, a non-profit. She hopes the pay-off of this non-profit fellowship will turn into a career. In the meantime, she works 15 hours a week, with compensation.

“In the non-profit world it is a little bit different, they hold progressive ideals, and one of those is worker’s rights,” says DuQue. “The concept of unpaid internships is kind of looked down upon.”

DuQue has worked in other internship positions and has dedicated thousands of volunteer hours. She believes she focused more time on her career development than her academics. For her, this decision led to paid internships, paid travel expenses to cities like San Francisco, Austin, Portland and Washington D.C., and compensation. She has three to four friends across the country who will probably take a similar route after graduation and enter a fellowship.

DuQue is following the grind of her UGA predecessors Mitchell and Ezzard. Even before entering the post-graduate world, her advice aligns with Mitchell’s.

“It’s all about the networking”, says DuQue, “Even if you do it (internship) just for a month or two after graduation, you’ll meet different people and soon a job will open and they may suggest you apply.”

Although the stress level is high and pay-off seems non-existent, risks and hard work from all three of these cases from UGA reveal what doors an internship can open.

“Go after what you want and don’t be afraid to move to a completely new city not knowing a soul,” said Ezzard, “I did it, and I wouldn’t take it back for the world.”

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