Summer internship season is nearly upon us, and for young “professionals,” this means living out of a suitcase, crashing on someone’s couch, and navigating a huge and terrible city where you know no one…at least for a little bit.
The “jobs” don’t come to you, so you gotta go to the “jobs.” This is how you live in the big city for work and no profit.
1. Pack judiciously. Bring unwrinkleable work clothes (knits are best, but if you roll your wovens/silks they won’t get too awful looking), not too many pairs of shoes (3 is plenty), and extra underwear. Don’t forget things like deodorant. Put the things you’ll need most immediately on top of your duffel bag so you’re not scrambling around like an idiot. When your clothes start looking mashed and crumpled from your lack of dresser or closet, start taking very hot showers with your blouses and pencil skirts hung up as close as possible to the showerhead without getting them actually wet. You won’t look great, but you’ll look less awful.
2. Budget, somehow. Figure out how little you can spend per day, multiply by seven, and withdraw that much cash to get you through the week. Without a kitchen to call your own, you’ll probably have to eat most meals out. Accept this as fact and move on. You will die if you don’t eat! Try a different bodega every day on your way to work and keep a mental tally of which sells the biggest, cheapest coffee. Invest in easily-prepared snax like baby carrots, fruit, hard-cooked eggs, et cetera, for your office fridge. Avoid vintage knickknacks or artisanal honey when you’re out on the town.
3. Learn your new subway system. If your monthly commuting costs put you within spitting distance of the price of the unlimited pass, pony up and get one. When you don’t have to nickel-and-dime your gadding-about, that Metrocard will be your golden ticket for going places other than work and your couch-bed (which don’t have to cost $$, either: parks and libraries are free, entertaining, and a blessed reprieve from the non-wage slavery that is your workday).
4. Stop looking at your phone. You can navigate by looking at the actual street signs too, you know? And you don’t need a compass. Rises in the east, sets in the west. Triangulate accordingly. Or get lost, which can be equally appealing (within reason).
5. Accept any and all invitations. Co-workers going out to lunch or roommates hitting up happy hour are ways to get to know people AND places. Go to professional networking events, even if it’s only for the cheese. For the truly adventurous, seek out (or organize!) meetups. Your life is now a giant improv class and you are going to yes-and it to death.
6. Thank your hosts, whoever they are. Keeping whatever space you’re squatting in tidy is a given, but little gestures like springing for a six-pack, Trader Joe’s flowers, or both, will do a lot to chip away at the resentment that tends to build up when someone’s hogging your living room for six weeks. Even if you’re paying them. Even you’re paying them and telling them jokes.
Blair Thornburgh lives in Philadelphia.