The time I said “no”

The question: When is it appropriate to say “no” as an intern?

The answer: When you are asked to do something inappropriate.


The question reminds me of a situation I was in almost four years ago when I was interning at a major record label’s publicity department. I helped out with what I thought was real work, but I also did mailings, copying and other typical intern work.The label had a great internship program; interns would receive a presentation from a higher-up once a week.

I’ll never forget towards the end of the internship program we heard a presentation from a very prestigious publicist. The publicist told us that we are there to learn about the industry and not do the grunt work (It was worded more inspirational, but that’s the gist of it).

Later that week an employee in the department asked me to go a few New York City blocks to grab lunch for everyone. I politely told him that I didn’t feel this was part of my job responsibilities. I couldn’t believe as an intern, I stood up for myself. The employee seemed a little agitated, but was fine with it.

The department had eight interns. As far as I know, I was the only one to receive an interview for a full-time job. I would say my work ethic definitely made a difference.

Did I do the correct thing? I don’t know. I don’t even know what the moral of the story is. I’m not suggesting you talk back to your boss. All I know is when the tasks seem inappropriate and not part of the job description, say something.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? What’s an inappropriate action you reluctantly did while interning?

Next question – What’s the definition of inappropriate and where is the line drawn?

*Thanks to R. Devin Hughes for making me realize I needed to blog about this.

One Response to “The time I said “no””

  1. Suzy - August 4th, 2009

    Brian, the anecdote is interesting and revealing. As someone from an older, and different, generation, who would probably have gone to get the food, I’m wondering if you see your response as an indicator of a generational shift, or gender based in any way.
    suzy

    [Reply]

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