Adam Baumgartner is a junior journalism major and writes ‘Stay Perfect’ for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Adam at email@example.com.
Work hard and be entrepreneurial was the general message Soledad O’Brien sent to Ball State students Monday afternoon at a small-group, Q-and-A session.
O’Brien is no stranger to hard work. The chairwoman of Starfish Media Group made a name for herself working for several different media organizations, including CNN and HBO.
But O’Brien sent another message to students.
“[For] my very first boss, I had to get her dry cleaning, all the things that were completely illegal in an internship,” she said.
O’Brien said because she was willing to do crazy things — even take her boss’s car to get fixed — her boss helped her find a place to live in Boston.
She told an anecdote about an intern she had at CNN. She said the intern introduced herself and explained that she does not fetch coffee because she finds it demeaning.
“And I’m like, ‘I fully understand, Stacey. You should know, I don’t write recommendations. I think it’s demeaning,’” O’Brien said. “Who starts a conversation that way?”
Throughout the conversation, O’Brien said young people should be willing to do anything because “that’s the person I want to move to the next thing that I’m doing. If I’m successful, I want them to come with me.”
Essentially, if you’re not willing to do it all, your bosses and colleagues won’t want to keep you around.
I felt confused.
As a junior, I have completed two internships. I first worked at The Indianapolis Star, then The Chicago Tribune.
At neither newspaper, however, did I fetch coffee.
At neither newspaper did I pick up dry cleaning or take my boss’s car to be fixed.
O’Brien’s advice confused me because even though I didn’t fall to my boss’s whim, my employers valued me.
I didn’t have to pick up lunch for my coworkers, yet The Chicago Tribune invited me to stay on after my internship ended. They even invited me back over breaks, and I’m thrilled to say I will spend my Fall Break helping them produce content.
My bosses appreciated me and paid me to do the work in which I was skilled.
And I am not the only student who has been successful without emptying the trash.
Amanda Richardson is the executive producer of Ball State’s NewsLink Indiana, a student-run, Emmy Award-winning newscast. Richardson has done two internships. She also shares O’Brien’s work ethic.
“I saw that there was work that needed to be done [and] I just did it, whether I was asked to or not,” Richardson said.
She said, though, that she never had to do work that fit anything but her job description.
By O’Brien’s standards, Richardson also is an anomaly, because RTV6 in Indianapolis hired her as a producer for a weekend morning TV show — without fetching coffee.
“I wrote copy, and I produced shows,” she said. “And I showed my employers that I had the skills they were looking for.”
We are a generation heading into a highly competitive job market. No one will hand us our careers — we have to fight for them.
In that regard, O’Brien is correct.
But no one who graduates from Ball State should feel desperate. We have spent our time here training for careers, gathering skills and experience that makes us valuable to employers.
When we graduate, we prove with our degrees that we are dedicated, committed, ready and willing to work. We prove we are able to think critically and solve problems.
O’Brien also told a story about hiring a personal assistant. She said several applicants shied away when she said they would have to help take care of her children, and that the applicants claimed they wanted to be journalists.
She said those applicants missed out on an opportunity.
“I have a YouTube channel; I have assignments; I have three documentaries I’m in the middle of. I have so much work — I’m so busy — [the applicant] would be a journalist,” she said. “And yes, at 3 o’clock, you’d have to go pick up my kids.”
Well, O’Brien, I am not qualified to care for children. I am qualified to be a journalist.
And I do not want your letter of recommendation.