"Constructive Torture"

Noun. 1. The process of being taken to task repeatedly by one’s boss for doing a mediocre job and made to stay late at night and come in on weekends, only to result in a finished product that, as one later realizes, is all the more impressive for the pain and exhaustion that had earlier been endured.

I now feel I am secure enough that I can comment, albeit briefly, on my work without the threat of losing my job. It’s been crazy and hectic and overwhelming, but all of those things in really good ways. It’s actually the best job I’ve ever had, hands down, and it amuses me to think back to my second week here, when I walked in for my interview not really caring whether I got it or not. I met with Alex, the founder and head of the company, who, in only about a half hour of talking to me, made me go from ambivalence to enthusiasm about the position. By the time I started I was nervous but also pretty damn excited, and about a week into it (around the same time they decided to keep me instead of “testing” me out), I was wholeheartedly enjoying myself, but also wholeheartedly convinced that I wasn’t being paid nearly enough for what I was doing.

Basically, there are two kinds of internships. There’s the first kind, in which companies need someone to do all the really boring stuff like copying documents and grabbing coffee and sorting through receipts from past trips, and that’s what you do half the time, until none of these things are necessary and you just sitting there, trying to occupy yourself and feeling worthless. Then there’s the other kind, in which you’re entrusted with massive amounts of responsibility and work, expected to complete projects, stay late until things are finished, come in on weekends, etc. Suffice it to say, this certainly falls into the latter category, and until I had this internship (or praktikum, as it’s called here), I really didn’t know what one of those jobs felt like. I write copy, articles, interviews, manage a website, come up with new ideas for pitches to prospective clients, and lately (apparently) actually pitch to those clients as well.

You see, starting the day I got there, we had been working long hours to put together a pitch on a really big client. So big, in fact, that I had signed a non-disclosure agreement the moment I got there, just so they could tell me what it was. Finally, it was a Friday, and the pitch was set to go off the following Tuesday, when to my surprise, everyone collectively decided that I should joint-pitch it with my direct boss, Rachel. Now, Rachel is American and also young and outgoing, so I suppose maybe they thought it would be cute and charming, but whatever the reasons for it, I was suddenly faced with the prospect of giving the first presentation ever that would have consequences beyond bad grades. I was, needless to say, terrified, and when I came in that Saturday afternoon to work on it for a few days, Alex identified this and gave me a much-needed pep talk. Up until then, I had been planning my attack thus: I would work there for about two months, doing the most amazing job I ever had at anything, and then by about mid-March or so, I would take Alex out for coffee, the way we had done for my interview, and make a case for myself. I would explain that I had proved I was a valuable asset to the company, that I was doing work and pulling hours way beyond what was expected of an intern, and that I wanted to come on full-time (aka, be paid accordingly for the work and time I was putting in). Well, hang on to your hats folks, because you’re about to get a whiff of what a good boss actually looks like (was I mixing metaphors)? Alex started off by asking me if I was okay with being in on a Saturday, and with my mom visiting and all (site note: yes, she was). I said well, no, not really, but instead of making me say something I didn’t want to say, why didn’t we just get down to work? He said it was important to him that I was okay with being here, because he wanted my mind to be on my work as well, and then, he asked a question I have never heard anyone I worked for ask, ever.

“Do you like working here?” He asked me.

I replied without a beat, “It’s the best job I’ve ever had. The first one, in fact, where I’m not watching the clock the whole time to see when I can go home.”

He proceeded to tell me that, while I might have been wondering why, after only three weeks here, he was having me do this pitch, the truth was that from the moment he’d met me, he thought I was “extremely bright,” and that everyone there recognized that I was “immensely talented” and “a natural at this.” And then he said the one thing I’d been waiting to hear. “In fact,” he added, “we’re interested in keeping you on after these six months. We’re not the kind of company that uses interns for cheap labor and then throws them away. We want you to stay.”

If he said anything else after that, I don’t remember it. I was so stunned and overjoyed I could hardly speak. I think I managed to say, calmly and very professionally, “Well. I’m glad you’re mentioning that, because it’s something I wanted to talk to you about in the near future.” I could barely stay in my seat, wanted to jump up and down, didn’t. Yet even now, two weeks later, I’m still rather taken aback by it. The pitch went as well as it could have, and now we’re waiting for an answer, and since then Alex has begun to come to me directly with jobs and projects, trusting that I’ll do a good job. I think so far I have. Really, it makes me both sad and happy to think about, but have I never had a good boss before this? Have I never worked for someone who appreciated my talents, actually saw in me exactly what I saw in me, and was willing to let me know that he saw those things? Yes, I would have gone to Alex about coming on full-time anyway, and yet I didn’t have to. For what seems like the first time in my life, my hard work and dedication actually seems to have shown through. Of course, I suppose I should wait around to see if all this comes to pass six months from now, but I have (atheist) faith….