By Mike Berlin

Am I right? You’re a little sketched out working at the local pool this summer. Sure the job is steady, full-time, with decent pay and that everybody-know-your-name atmosphere. But on the flipside, you used to babysit all of your coworkers, you’re utterly unfulfilled, and you feel slightly ashamed putting “Lifeguard” down repeatedly on your résumé as your job experience for the past six years.

Let’s face it: you need an internship. And now, after months of searching laboriously, submitting cover letters, and nagging your dad’s friends incessantly, you’ve secured that ever-elusive and career-advancing position of intern (aka copy machine wench). You’ve got a summer of excitement and thrills ahead of you, getting paid $12 an hour to do the work that the even lowliest secretary wouldn’t touch with a fifty-foot pole. Having been an intern for the past four summers, I’ve held an array of bitchwork jobs ranging from “research assistant” to “temp.” But hey, never fear, there are tricks to the trade of avoiding
arbitrary tasks.

Here’s how to avoid most of the bitchwork.

  1. If you’ve got multiple bosses, use that to your advantage. Many internships are structured poorly. You’re most likely going to be taking orders from almost everyone in the office from the head boss to the janitor. But when someone approaches you for a thrilling session of stuffing envelopes, tell them that your valuable services are already in use by one of their superiors. Ask each one of your bosses for breaks at various times in the workday. Never underestimate the bureaucratic pyramid of power. Sure you’re at the bottom, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play the system.

  2. Use Microsoft Excel. An integral element of many internships is data entry, one of the most pointless and time-consuming tasks out there. But don’t let Microsoft Excel rule your life; take charge of it. Pull up a spreadsheet or two on your desktop and type random numbers into it. Bold some of the heading rows and columns with words like “Revenue” and “Synergistic Efficiency.” Get creative and color some of the cells to make your work seem extra complex and important. When you hear the faint pitter patter of your superior coming down the hall, minimize PIC and pull up your spreadsheet spectacular.

  3. Look busy. Ideally, internships should be enriching work experiences, full of challenging and consistent work. Just present that image, and you’ll be set. When someone comes by to check in on you, furrow your brow, shuffle and sort random papers, and pretend like you’re wholly absorbed in your work. Make sure to look perplexed, yet desperately interested in what you’re doing. Frowning helps, but only in small doses to present that mad genius countenance that Russell Crowe so expertly masters with John Nash on the silver screen. Watch A Simple Mind for good measure, perhaps on YouTube during times when everyone in your office is out to a meeting.

  4. Move intermittently throughout your office. Why do the characters on ER and The West Wing always look so busy? Because they are constantly power-walking through hallways with the utmost urgency. It doesn’t really matter why they’re always darting in and out of rooms and bustling through cluttered corridors. What matters is that they’ve got important shit to do and you’d better get out of their way. So whether you’re going to get another cup of coffee or checking your mail slot (which obviously contains no mail), make sure to go full force like a bull seeking the color red. Swing your arms, take long strides, pretend that Martin Sheen himself is briefing you in the Oval Office and you’re five minutes late. Whatever you’re doing, it’s far more important than distributing the latest memo about proper office kitchen etiquette.

  5. Have your coworkers underestimate you. If you’re given a task/project/job that your superior says will take a long time, do just that. Work at a painstaking pace. Your coworkers will take pity on you and praise you for what a diligent, determined worker you are.

  6. Get off work early. Let’s be realistic, what can you really accomplish in half an hour? (A lot, but if you’re following Rule 5, then absolutely nothing). The best time to approach your coworkers for new tasks is about 25 minutes before you get off work. Make sure to look like you’ve been working all day (mess your hair a little, maybe hold one of your limp hands in the other to signal an onset of carpal tunnel) then ask with a chipper tone, “Is there anything else I can work on today?” Your boss, tired of thinking of new and inventive ways to ask you to fax order forms, will not see this coming and subsequently send you home early, thus ending the perfect day of YouTubing and evading work.

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Internships are inevitable for career-minded college students, but with these proven methods, you’ll be able to do something other than photocopy pictures of your butt cheeks all day long.

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