The closest thing I've ever had to a "real" job was an internship at an independent film company during college.
I was fired in a little more than a month.
It was my second semester of sophomore year at NYU. I found myself spending many a Friday and Saturday night staying in, fleshing out a small-business concept that I planned to launch on campus to earn a few extra bucks. A week or so before I was about to get going, I received an e-mail from my career adviser reminding me to attend a previously scheduled appointment the following day. I'd forgotten about the meeting entirely, and in hindsight, I wish I hadn't been reminded.
During our meeting the next day, my career counsellor droned on about how important internships are and strongly encouraged me to look into securing one. Although they weren't mandatory, he thought it would be a great opportunity for me to "experience" my industry and gain "invaluable" knowledge.
So my own business venture took a back seat while I searched the career centre's database and scheduled an interview with what seemed like a reputable company. I was hired on the spot, congratulated by my future boss, and asked to start immediately. I found out later that congratulations were hardly in order. Every candidate was accepted, regardless of qualifications.
My college workload, social commitments, and three-day-a-week internship became nearly unmanageable. I quickly realized that my entrepreneurial ambitions were going to have to be put on hold indefinitely. I shelved my start-up again, and told myself it was only until I found more free time.
Two weeks passed - and the internship got worse by the day. Valuable experience, my ass. I wasn't learning a damn thing about the entertainment business. Each day my fellow indentured servants and I were reduced to file clerks and office gophers who fetched coffee and lunch for our superiors. Only if we were lucky did we receive the occasional chance to read and critique scripts as the internship description had indicated.
The worst part of the gig by far was the power-drunk middle manager whose severe anger issues earned him the nickname "Director Dickhead."
A month or so into the internship I was invited to have lunch with some of the top-level executives. When they asked about my experience working at the company, I smiled like an idiot, and lied my ass off. When they inquired about my opinion on the company's script review and evaluation process, I answered with what I believed were innocent suggestions to help the company organize, categorize, and evaluate the scripts more carefully and thoroughly.
I thought that was the end of it. As it turned out, I was very wrong.
Word about my brief conversation got back to Director Dickhead, who - wouldn't you know it - was actually the creator of the archaic system on which I was asked to comment. Out of nowhere, he reminded me that I was just a lowly intern and that I was to keep my mouth shut. Suffice it to say it wasn't long before I was unceremoniously let go.
I was dejected and bitter and - to top it all off - I found out that another student had recently launched a start-up with an almost identical concept as the one I had been putting on hold. Not only was I now without an internship, but my start-up idea seemed to be dead in the water. I felt like I had lost out because I did what someone else expected of me instead of following my own instincts and exploring my own interests.
It was at that moment that I decided to never again allow myself to fall into the trap of becoming distracted from my entrepreneurial ambitions.
Now is that time for you to do the same and get rid of that miserable bastard known as the "real" job. No longer should you slog it out for the benefit of others, or let shareholders, idiot bosses, and dismal job markets decide how you make your living. It's time for you to delete or set fire to your resumes or tell your employers where they can shove that imaginary gold watch and stick that useless employee of the month certificate.
However, before you can open the doors to your new dream job and overcome your pay cheque dependency syndrome, your business idea must survive a series of tests designed to make sure it has what it takes to make it in the real world.
Excerpted from Never Get a "Real" Job: How to Dump Your Boss, Build a Business, and Not Go Broke. Copyright 2011 by Scott Gerber, with permission of the publisher, John Wiley & Sons Canada. Ltd.