Anyone who listens to the radio, watches the news on television, navigates to their counterpart websites or picks up a daily paper knows that the US economy is struggling. Faced with, for the first time, gas prices that are on average $4 a gallon (which, for our European counterparts is nothing compared to the $7+ per gallon they pay), the common American is feeling a pinch. Jobless rates are up. Inflation rose at an incredibly high rate over the past 6 months. The mortgage crisis continues to rear its menacing face throughout the country. Let us not forget to mention the weakening dollar, which exacerbates some of these issues. Clearly, Ma and Pa Yankee are grappling when it comes to their pocketbooks.
I knew things were bad, but i don't think i was aware of just how bad they are. For the past seven years, i have participated in the Regents' Internship Program with great enthusiasm. Around this time, we would've selected a candidate for the 3 month assignment, sent her off for training, and happily greeted her to her new desk and shiny new office supplies. Mid-March, i typically perform an inventory of tasks as yet incomplete or new projects that need a fresh pair of eyes. I give this list to my secretary, who in turn translates this into an assessment of our need for a set number of man hours to complete it, which then gets forwarded over to the Director of Human Resources. Based on the number we provide, a pool of candidates gets selected by their backgrounds, the focus of their college majors, and their skillsets, which are all pre-screened by my esteemed assistant.
March came and went, and a list of potential field hands never crossed my desk. I asked my secretary if she'd heard anything regarding the Regent candidates, indicating she had not, she immediately saw the larger ramifications of this. By mid-April, i became very (perhaps all told, overly) concerned when nothing such as a question regarding openings in my schedule for interviews came from upstairs. I took matters into my own hands and made a visit to the head of our HR. I asked if she'd received our laundry list of projects. She had. I asked if she had any questions about it. She didn't. Flummoxed by her nonchalance, i inquired with sharp-bladed precision whether or not we were going to be participating in the Regents' program this summer.
That was up in the air.
Two weeks ago, as if she were announcing the mundane news that a daisy in some Spanish meadow had lost a few petals, the HR Administrator casually informed me that our company would not be participating in the mentoring project.
"Are you kidding me?"
"Why on earth would we not participate?"
"Have you seen the news about the economy?"
I wanted to yell out at her "What the hell does that have to do with this?" as she walked away from me, taking her dejecting attitude and painting it like a vandal all over the walls of our office. Apparently, because there are some tough financial times, we're not able to open our doors to young, underprivileged college students, offer them knowledge transfer about working in an office environment and pay them on the cheap.
Yes, i realize i am being an incorrigible brat about this. There are people out there for whom this downturn in the economy is impacting much deeper than this episode i describe. That i believe my company is using the economic turmoil as an excuse to pad poor decisions it made when it over-compensated the executive staff is honestly not the point.
I enjoy every stage of handling my interns. From interviewing the female-only group, and looking forward to their diligent allegiance to my dress code, to reviewing their typos in the inaugural memos i ask them to type. But most importantly, their presence, their raw, electric feminine life that comes and goes in such wistfully jubilant strides will be something that my summer will inherently lack. As it should be clear, i am a massive fan of the fairer sex, and spending these hot months cramped up in an office without my annual girl pageant is something i'm not quite prepared to handle.