Jennifer Dziura writes life coaching advice weekly here on TheGloss, and career coaching advice Fridays on TheGrindstone.
A teenage student of mine has a problem – she is involved in the worst unpaid internship in the world.
Her mom made her go into a local doctor’s office and, explaining that she had “nothing to do” all summer, request to work there. She does not actually want to be a doctor (her mom wants her to be a doctor).
The doctor’s office doesn’t really have much useful work she can do, but they’ve kindly exposed her to all facets of the business: this resulted in getting squirted with blood during someone’s wisdom tooth surgery.
She wants to just stop going there and never speak to them again. But she can’t! Because … wait for it … the doctor’s office is located in her family’s apartment building. Awkward. How New York.
I offered some suggestions. For instance, “Thank you so much for allowing me this opportunity! This has really helped me see that this isn’t for me – I’m a little squeamish and should really explore other career options.”
I have written before, on many occasions, about women who have trouble being direct, even when they are obviously in the right. In Bullish: How to Communicate with Chutzpah:
For instance, I once worked for a company that was late in paying me. My contact at the company had an elaborate plan to slip the invoice into a magical stack of invoices so that the person who pays the invoices would think that the invoice had been fast-tracked by the person who makes the magical stack. What? No one has done anything wrong here. I did the work. Everyone likes it! You got the money approved before you asked me to do it. Now I would like my invoice processed! You should ask the lady who signs thing to pay the invoice! Yay! There isn’t even a problem here.
(See also: Bullish Life: Breaking Free From Terrible Situations. And if you haven’t read my four-part series on asking for more money, I think you should do so and consider asking for more money. Not just for yourself, either – are you getting emails from the Obama campaign asking for money and wishing you had money to give? I want you to make more money for your future self, and for all of us. See Bullish: How to Ask for More Money, Part I and Part II, Bullish: How to Ask for More Money Q&A, and Bullish: How Negotiating a Raise is Like Dating.)
My student didn’t like the direct option. (She had also once told me a story about a “friend” repeatedly cheating off her paper, and the incredible lengths she had gone to – changing seats, buying a new pencil box to block the friend’s view – to try to stop this without having to say anything.)