Why I Turned Down a “Lucrative” Internship

After almost three years working at a job I no longer enjoyed and finally receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance after 8 years of school on and off, I thought I’d finally have it made. I thought I had the golden ticket and companies would be fighting over the opportunity to hire me. Add in the fact that I have entrepreneurial experience and I thought that was icing on the cake.

But it wasn’t.

I started my job about 3 years ago with the mindset that I’d be moving on to bigger and better things once I got my degree.

It was hard to believe that that time finally arrived!

I did everything like a good boy was supposed to do. I polished my resume and sent it to just about every big financial player in the area.

But nothing happened.

Not even at a financial heavyweight that’s a partner of the major bank I worked at. I had people that knew people!

I was surely a shoo in, right? Wrong!

With my graduation, and deadline to get a new job quickly approaching, I came across a flyer at school for a company that’s kinda sorta in the financial industry that was giving a presentation the following week.

I figured I had nothing to lose so I checked it out. I thought there would be this glamorous Power Point presentation and there would be all these students who’d be interested. I was wrong; it was 2 recruiters and 2 students, myself included, kinda just shooting the shit and talking a little about the company and position.

I liked what I heard. Except for the fact that it was an internship. One that paid a stipend of $100 a week. But plans change, right? That’s not horrible, except when you’re used to working full-time. But I liked the fact that they were recognized as a place that’s a “Top 10 Place to Internship” according to someone. “It would look good on a resume” I thought to myself. Plus I could get this really cool license that said that I could sell life insurance in the state of Florida. And then if I get hired on full-time after the internship I’d get an awesome signing bonus of up to $8,000. And then I could also get these really cool licenses that said I could sell people investments and what not. And then I’d be recognized as a financial advisor; something that I thought I wanted to be. Plus, I could potentially make a shit ton of money. The wheels were starting to turn in my head!

So why did I decide I didn’t want to do it 2 days before it was supposed to start?

  • All the risk was placed on my shoulders. I had to sell their product to all my friends and family. Even to those I lost touch with because I’d been so busy between work and school. Imagine how the conversation would go: “Hey, I know I’ve been a shitty friend but I need you to buy some life insurance from me. Oh, you can hardly pay your student loans? Oh, well you need this stuff because you can die tomorrow to cover those student loans.” Really? Oh and if someone surprisingly did buy life insurance from me, I’d only get half of the commission because they have to do stuff like mentor me and what not. So I put my reputation on the line and solicit your product to my connections and network that I’ve spent literally my entire life building but you get half of what I’d normally make because I’m an intern? Fuck you.
  • Whenever they talked about potential clients, they wanted you to think about “well to do individuals” who were married and had children that you could target. In other words, people that have money but just stated a little nicer. What a shitty way to set the tone and expectations! Plus most of my friends and family weren’t “well to do individuals” so there’s that.
  • They highlighted the culture and the potential earnings to make things seem incredible. Yeah the culture is awesome because you’re basically your own boss. I’d be as happy as a pig in shit if that was the case too! They showed me all about the potential earnings about their top quarter percentile. Yeah that’s cool that some people make over $75,000 their first year but what about the other 75%? Are they able to survive? They dangled this carrot in front of my face to get me to drink the Kool Aid and they almost got me!
  • They weren’t truthful with their expectations. I was supposed to interview 10 people about me possibly doing this internship and they said that this would be my client base if I were to accept the internship which I was fine with. I also knew that I’d have to do a 40-hour course to get the license that was required to do the internship which I was fine with too. But once things got moving along, things changed. I was supposed to have a list of 100 people before the internship started. I also had to pass 2 of their exams where the study material was over 300 pages long. But here was the real kicker: I had to pay to get finger prints, pay to get registered with the state of Florida, pay for study material, pay to take the 40-hour course, and pay for the exam. All of this totaled about $350. All of which I wasn’t made aware of at the beginning of the process. None of this was refundable except for the 40-hour course which you would only get if you become full-time after the internship. So I basically have to pay $350 to make $1,000 over 10 weeks? That $1,000 would also be taxed because I’d be a 1099 employee which they also didn’t tell me. So I’d only make a couple hundred bucks over 10 weeks if I didn’t sell any insurance. Are you serious?
  • The fact that most people don’t purchase a thing from you until 2-3 years later. I just happened to come across that interesting fact flipping through the ridiculous 300+ pages of study material. So my internship is 10 weeks but most people don’t buy anything until long after that? How does that help me out? How am I supposed to survive during those 10 weeks? I was basically set up to fail.
  • You’re still just a number. There’s a bunch of other representatives selling the exact same product. They basically train you to use their system and everyone uses the same system. You can’t really differentiate yourself. You’re competing with all the other representatives. Not to mention, all the other life insurance companies and their representatives. You aren’t different. You aren’t unique. The only difference between you and everyone else is your network. If you want to exploit that trust and your reputation to make money off your friends and family, then go for it.
  • They talked a big game that if you work hard for a couple of years, you could be set for life. But that’s not really how it works. All that matters is your connections. That’s what they’re using you for. So if you and/or your family come from money, you’ll be just fine. If not, well, you just have to hustle to live paycheck to paycheck. I talked to someone who actually did the internship who was currently working for them in another capacity about the internship and he said that it was great that you actually get some kind of stipend because there are some people who aren’t making any money whatsoever. So there’s a good chance that I work 40, 50, 60 hours a week but I make $0?! Why would I want such a career?
  • Be my own boss but push a product that I didn’t necessarily believe in to people that didn’t necessarily need or want it. They talked about the fact that you’re basically you’re own boss which really resonated with me. But if you think about it, all what it really means is that its up to you if you put dinner on the table. But here’s how they help you out: they provide you with a product to sell. That’s basically it. It’s up to you to influence people that they want it and need it. But I didn’t believe in the product or that people really needed it. It’s not really a need. If I had to guess, a lot of my friends and family don’t have a lot of disposable income. And they probably have a shit ton of student loan debt. Add that to the fact that most of them are bachelors with no kids and hardly anyone in my circle has a need for a product that I’m offering. Again, setting myself up for failure.
  • They highlighted the fact that they were so involved with the community; the fact that they were this group of do-good individuals who really cared for the community that they were in. But I didn’t quite get that vibe. The vibe I got is that they do these kinds of things to drum up business and make themselves look better than the sleazy life insurance salespeople that they really are. But hey, that’s just me.
  • I went to a dinner party for the incoming interns who graduated college at the big boss’ house. It could have been anywhere but it was at his house. A house that he bought for over $2 million. Thanks, Zillow! He was cocky about it and they kinda used it as “hey, you work your ass off and you can live in a house like this too!” I took it as “hey, I’m a cocky motherfucker! Look how much more awesome I am than you?” I wasn’t impressed. I saw it as a waste. Why do you need 5 bedrooms for you, your wife, and daughter? I don’t need such a large, fancy house. I’m simpler and content with a lot less. I have other motivations and I was starting to see that I wasn’t going to be a good fit.
  • Before the internship, I thought I wanted to be in the finance industry. Life insurance is kinda finance, right? I was trying to fit a square peg in a round hole and it just wasn’t going to work. I was trying to fool myself. I was trying to convince myself that this 10 week internship would look good on a resume if nothing else and that it would help me on my journey to being happy. Of course, I thought making more money would make me happy but we’ve been through this before; it’s not the case. It took me until 2 days before the internship to realize it but better late than never.

So moral of the story, don’t do something if you can’t do it wholehearted. Don’t do something if it doesn’t make you happy. Don’t do something if you aren’t passionate about it. Don’t think that money, or more money, will make you happy. It won’t. Don’t spend your time doing something you don’t agree with completely or that makes you miserable. You don’t have to do something if it doesn’t feel right just so things go “according to plan.”

How about you? You ever do something like this? Why’d you do it? Did you have some of the same reasoning as I did?


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