Thursday, April 14, 2011

Intern wanted: unpaid but the experience will be invaluable.

I have a lot on my plate and am often running myself into the ground trying to get everything done. Last week I was emailing with a friend about some significant new commitments I agreed to take on and speculating why I am such an easy mark. I was also lamenting the amount of time and energy that would be involved. Time and energy I don't have. She jokingly replied that I needed to hire an intern. I laughed at her wit. Ha ha, yes, I will hire a household intern. But after pondering this for a few days I have come to think this idea is not ridiculous at all, but downright brilliant. Of course I need an intern.

The benefits to me of having an intern are obvious. I would have someone to help around the house, do the menial tasks (oh wait, that is pretty much all of them) and generally provide support, therefore perhaps freeing up a bit of time for me to sleep. But what about the intern? Why would anyone want an internship with me?

An internship with me would provide invaluable experience building critical skills that are coveted by Fortune 500 companies. I heard that snicker. But seriously, stop and think about it. For starters, an intern would learn how to manage multiple tasks, all of urgent priority, under tremendous pressure. It takes a cool head and nerves of steel to move two children from completely asleep in their warm cozy beds and wanting to stay that way to getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing teeth and hair, washing faces and hands and out the door to school in only 30 minutes. All the while under loud protest and resistance. Once my intern masters that skill set there isn't a Fortune 500 company who won't clamber to hire them.

But before the intern can manage these multiple tasks they must first learn to allocate scarce resources judiciously. While this act of managing your resources may seem mundane it's the difference between sweet success and dismal failure. Under my tutelage my intern will deal with real life cases such as realizing you have only three Chips Ahoy cookies left to distribute amongst two school lunches. And it must be done evenly because the child who benefits from the extra cookie will manage to disclose this fact to the one who wasn't so lucky. At which point my intern would add another skill to their resume - damage control. But instead of being left to flail alone I will calmly help my intern through the crisis (answer - one in each lunch and eat the third yourself). The intern will come out the other side wiser and ready for anything.

Another marketable skill my intern will learn is logistics planning. Not just for the military, logistics is the bread and butter of a smoothly running household. You need to know what is on your schedule and exactly how much time and which resources need to be allocated to each item. On a typical day you need to figure out how to get two children to different after school activities in different places. At the same time. The children need to be wearing seasonally and activity appropriate clothing (soccer cleats and shorts for soccer = good, crocs and a skirt for soccer = bad). The children also need to be accompanied by the correct gear and accessories, such as a water bottle, preferably with water or some other liquid in it. Subtract points for using a spare water bottle from last week you found in the back of the minivan. But before you can depart you need to make sure they have used the bathroom and applied sunscreen. Be sure to build in a cushion of time for last minute crisis, such as a missing cleat. After frantically getting everyone where they need to be at the designated time you will have approximately ten minutes of down time before you need to pick them up (again, at the same time but in separate places), bring them home, feed them dinner, have them complete homework, practice the piano, bathe and get in bed. This needs to be done within exactly 90 minutes from when you pick them up at the end of the after school activity.

In order to really understand the *business* my intern will need to spend some time in each of our *departments*. The first stop will be the Finance department. The intern will learn what I refer to as *flying blind financial management*. This is where you attempt to reconcile the banking accounts and credit cards despite having no clue about various expenses your husband is incurring, such as huge shipments of expensive wine, or rounds of golf that can't be reimbursed from his last business trip. The intern will go through the process of assuming the money in the checking account is available, only to receive several large bills for aforementioned items, resulting in a sudden cash drain that will involve adjustments to other areas of the budget. I would also like my intern to spend some time researching the mystery of how come I spend so much money on groceries, and yet all my children eat is pasta, which is fairly cheap. You'd think I could spend $20 for the entire week and be done, so where does the rest go?

Next my intern could spend some time with our Marketing and Public Relations department. Here is where the magic happens. By the end of their tenure my intern will have learned the fine art of being able to put a positive spin on pretty much anything. Once you learn how to convincingly sell the idea that it's not the end of the world that the dog ate all my daughter's Halloween candy you can sell anything. I will also teach the intern how to properly *market* ideas and products, such as the importance of brushing your teeth every day or using a napkin to wipe your face and hands and not your sleeve. Or my sleeve. Unfortunately there won't be many opportunities with my children to learn how to write a press release because they won't read them. However, these could be written for my husband. Who also won't read them.

Toward the end of the internship my intern will be faced with a project that is a culmination of all the other lessons - planning our summer vacation. This will involve financial negotiations with my husband over cost, as well as marketing and PR to the kids about why we aren't going to Hawaii, or China. There will be logistics in the form of coordinating care for the dog, and the 800 things that will need to be managed in our absence. There will be multi-tasking under extreme pressure as the intern attempts to get everyone packed to go - simultaneously, and crisis management when my son bursts into tears because we aren't bringing the dog. And after everything is done my intern will learn the most important lesson of all - happy hour.


  1. oooh........ I want a new intern too! Let me know when you hire him, and if he's cute. My last intern quit after only 2 hours (damn her), so I am on the prowl once again. You didn't mention laundry and dishes for the intern, but maybe that could just be lumped under *maintenance*? My intern would also need to be in charge of *general communications* which would include buying a Mother's Day gift for my mother-in-law. And me. Yes, I could use a gift, and chocolate is always the right size.
    MOV :)

  2. i have hired many interns/assistants/volunteers in my professional life, and many have found their low-level positions un-fulfilling. perhaps being more empowered to manage my home would be a higher-level fulfillment for one lucky intern. the intern could even think up an impressive sounding job title and "business" name! but i don't really want someone in my house... i wonder if i can outsource the internship?