You are expendable. Morgan publicly apologized for her cussing. She tweeted a charming photo of a "swear jar" stuffed with money. She still has a job, because she has allies. The NTSB intern was fired. In fact, a search through the Google News for "intern fired" brings up many fascinating results from years past. In 2011, an intern for then-Rep. Allen West was fired for a pro-gay retweet. In 2009, when an unpaid intern for Sen. Michael Bennet said an hour with the senator would cost one $2,400 donation, she was fired. In 2000, a Spokane Spokesman-Review intern was fired for using the term "Nazi priest" in a headline. In 1970, a U.S. Education Office intern was fired for a "'revolutionary, atrociously obscene' slide show."
Have an open mind. When I started one internship, three editors separately took me aside to warn me about one famous predator in the office. He never said a single inappropriate word to me. I choose to take this as a compliment.
Wear glasses. Some sexist men think women are stupid. Since these men operate on visual cues, a simple smart person accessory like glasses will do wonders.
Refine your brown-nosing game. Egos are fragile. Morgan told TPM, "And then like she had the fucking balls to like trash me in the paper. And be like, ‘His communications director was last the press secretary of the Department of Education in New Jersey'... You know what? Fuck you, you little cunt. I’m not joking, I am going to sue her." It doesn't have to be this way. I was once praised for being far less of an insufferable suck up than my fellow intern. Another example: George W. Bush once referred to an aide by the rather dismissive term "Altoid Boy." Altoid Boy went on to become Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Trade and Promotion and Director-General of the United States Commercial Service.
Stay on top of the latest tech thing. Your new colleagues are steeped in status anxiety and age anxiety. If you work in politics or media or, I don't know, many kinds of other industries (all industries?), then you are in an industry in which "30 under 30" lists are ubiquitous and the early adoption of communications technology is critical to survival. Play off this. Use it. Claim you use Weibo. Watch your colleagues gasp in horror. Wrinkle your nose in shock: "You don't use Weibo?!"
Revel in your cultural ignorance. Your older colleagues will persistently ask you if you have ever seen the cultural touchstones of generations past. Without fail, they will moan and shake their heads when you have not seen the bad music and movies that were briefly popular when they were teens. Your older colleagues will seek out these confrontations intentionally, because they get a masochistic thrill out of it. One time I made an editor gasp when I said I'd never seen Rocky. You know what? Rocky sucks. Don't pretend you've seen Rocky! Just savor the moment. Someday a youth will make your heart palpitate by saying she's never seen Mean Girls.
Stay under the radar. If you become scandalous as an intern, you will find yourself with few allies, even if all you did was retweet a dumb thing. Wait until you are famous like Jonah Lehrer to become scandalous, because people will continue to defend you, even if you, like, make up quotes from Bob Dylan. If this is not an option, go live in Europe until your friends have climbed far enough up the ladder to give you another internship.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.