Learning the Value of the Ladder

October 29, 2009

Until recently, I had never thought of a trophy as more than an award to represent success in a particular area. On the first day of my internship, however, I spotted a poster board created by a former intern that was displayed in the back office. The poster has several pieces of advice for new interns; the first lesson was to not be a “trophy”. Needless to say, I did not know exactly what this term meant but I had a suspicion that I would not been in the dark about it for too long. I was finally informed about “trophies” after a few weeks in the office as a result of an interesting interoffice conversation. To get a more precise definition, one of the staff members forwarded me an article via email on the subject. The article is adapted from the book “The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace” by Ron Alsop in which trophies are described as people of my generation and that are entering the workforce.

Alsop’s main idea of trophies are young people that enter the workforce with a strong sense of entitlement and that want to move up in the workplace hierarchy as fast as possible. This mindset can be attributed to overbearing and/or coddling parents and teachers that have aversely impacted the “millenials”. Alsop also says that along with this sense of entitlement, trophies have no work loyalty, need to be complimented for each task, and require detailed instructions for each task they are asked to complete.

After reading the article, I could easily think of several of my peers that fit the description of a trophy. As someone of the generation, I wondered if I was indeed a trophy as well. In all my years of single sex education, I’ve been taught to be a strong assertive woman in order to be successful in the work force. As an intern however, sometimes it is difficult to discern when to assert yourself and when to simply fulfill the tasks given to you which typically involves a fair amount of grunt work. I began the internship without a real idea of what things would actually be like because I think an intern’s role varies drastically depending on the office in which you are working. However, I was certainly determined to come into the internship with an open mind and a willingness to work as hard as possible and learn as much possible.

I think the lessons of the work place can sometimes get lost in the wake of paying your dues. Sometimes the assignments just seem like busy work but in a lot of ways, there are tokens of knowledge to take away from even the most mundane tasks. Working in an office in any capacity is a learning experience because you learn the ways of the office, how to become a team player, responsibility, and dedication. Also, if you are doing even the most mundane tasks, it can be a huge help. Being an intern gives the staff the opportunity to learn about you as a person and as a worker, which is extremely important in deciding whether or not that person is a good fit to become a part of the staff permanently.

I would never want to be looked at or considered a trophy even though admittedly, I am somewhat accustomed to the instant gratification society that surrounds me. If I could get an amazing position with great pay right out of college, I think I would feel as though I was living my dream and fulfilling my goals. On the flip side, I believe there is something to be said about the character building part of working your way up.  Nothing that I have received in my life that was worth having has come easily so the ideal job should be no exception. I don’t want to get swept into the mentality of my generation that we are entitled to everything yet others before us had to work hard for years to attain the same things. I can appreciate the internship for the lessons it teaches and also the small contributions I get to make in the grand scheme of the political system.

-Anyah B., Star Fellow Fall 2009

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