Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Out of college… Into the fire

Last week, I had an appointment with a certain Mr. B in an ad agency. While the receptionist paged him, I went and sat in the lounge area.

“Are you here for an interview too?” asked the girl waiting there.

No, I reassured her quickly, and then asked, “Are you?”

“I’ve come for a summer job,” she said. "But the person in HR is in a meeting. And I’ve been here since 10.30”

I looked at my watch incredulously. It was 2 p.m!

“Does he even know you’re here?” I asked aghast.

In a choked voice, she replied, “He met me for 5 minutes but had to go back into the meeting. He said he’ll be back in 1 ½ hour, but it’s 2 hours now.”

I felt really sorry for her. I knew exactly how endless the meetings were. It was more than likely though, that the HR dude was either trying to avoid her or had forgotten about her.

So I gently suggested, “Look, why don’t you go home? Make an appointment and come on another day?”

Her face twisted with bitterness and fury. “How do I know he won’t do this again? No, I’m going to wait and give him a piece of my mind. Is this how they treat people who come for internships?”

While I admired her attempt to stand up for herself, I also thought she was being very naïve. What would HR dude do? Apologise profusely? Hire her on the spot? Give her cab fare home? In fact, the longer she waited, the closer she’d come to dissolving into a mass of tears.

Her rant continued, “He didn’t even do a formal interview with this other girl who was here in the morning. And poor thing, she’d come ALL the way from the suburbs!” (Hmm… I thought South Bombay types!)

“I mean how important can these meetings be,” she asked with a sneer. “Can’t they just take a break and attend to people who’ve come to meet them?”

I was truly dumbfounded. Did she even know what she was getting into then? Summer interns were a whole rung below the dregs known as trainees, in agency hierarchy! In all probability, if she got the job, she’d spend her summer photocopying documents, running errands and getting shooed away by busy execs. But here she was fresh out of college, thinking the world was her oyster and that the corporate world was waiting with open arms.

I remember being a victim of that fallacious thinking myself. I was a heady mix of naiveté and idealism. I’d met a Creative Director who liked my work and told me that the Vice President wanted to meet me. I was over the moon. The VP made appreciative sounds while going over my work and then seemed lost in thought. I hardly dared to breathe. Finally, he said, ‘You know I’d like to hire you as a Senior Copywriter. I’m trying to think how to fit you in.” From a nobody in Advertising to a Senior Copywriter! My eyes were as large as saucers and I remember thinking, ‘This is a g-o-d. When I become a famous copywriter, I’ll definitely remember to credit him.’ (Ok, so I was naïve, not humble ;) He asked for a couple of days to work it out. I could have skipped the 30 kilometres home.

Coincidentally, I met someone from that agency in the next few days. And I seized the opportunity to extol the virtues of ‘God’. He gave me a look usually reserved for those in padded cells. “X?! He’s the sleaziest guy in the industry. Steer clear of him.”

Kerr-RASH! Lesson learned.

Around the same time, I had an appointment with a super-hot CD in a super hot agency.

“Why do you want to join Advertising?”, was his first question. I stammered out my reasons.

“It’s an agonizing vocation. I still spend nights cursing myself for joining Advertising.” This from someone who’s a sought-after writer. He continued, “The high you get from cracking a good idea is so incredible, that you’ll sell your mother for it. But when your ideas get shot down, it’s like having a baby and watching it get butchered.” He was scaring me not just off advertising but childbirth as well!

He didn’t give me a job but put me onto a friend who did. So that scarefest was probably worth it.

Coming back to the poor summer intern, I found her still sitting forlorn in the reception an hour later. She was scribbling something, sad poetry perhaps, in her diary. Go home, I urged her again.

No, he can’t do this to me. I’m going to blah blah blah.

Ok honey, good luck! Happy learning…

No comments: