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No Lunch Break? What’s Up With That?

My UNPAID internship doesn’t really stimulate me all day long but I’ve been ‘discouraged’ from taking a lunch break. I have so much downtime — so I feel comfortable eating at my desk while browsing fun websites, but I’d like to be able to meet up with my friends at other companies and enjoy some freedom. This seems to be the trend in my industry — media — but it’s so frustrating. And my mom says it’s illegal! How can I go about gently asking for a real lunch break without mentioning the illegality of this internship while maintaining I can get all my work done? I don’t want to step on any toes and lose good contacts at my job.

Your approach of trying to figure out a solution while being grateful for the internship is exactly the right direction so let’s start there. No company is certainly trying to enforce slave labor but industries like media and entertainment can be large lifestyle sacrifices. Those arenas are a lot of work and the cultures are long hours and hard work for everyone regardless of your level on the ladder. 

That said, it sounds like it’s time to request a few minutes with your manager to talk about how the internship is going- let’s call it a mini-review. Talk about what you’ve been working on, how you can add more value if possible to the group and what some goals may be moving forward until the end of the internship. This can also offer you the opportunity to show them your dedication with a “whatever it takes” attitude to the work which can afford you the avenue to broach taking a break outside of the office occasionally during the lunch hour. 

These kinds of conversations can make you nervous, but committing to make this the best experience it can be will really help you in the long run and after this role is over.

For more than a decade, Sara Bordo has mentored nearly one hundred women at various stages of their careers. Her belief, that women should champion other women in their careers, has guided her efforts to help young women in growing both professionally and personally. In Spring 2010, she founded Women Rising, a consultancy that reinforces the principle that other women’s successes help all women. Women Rising’s efforts include a series of workshops that help young women begin and manage their professional careers. On a very practical level, the workshops provide insight from hiring managers, steps to define and leverage each woman’s personal brand, and networking strategies for entering the workplace. Upcoming activities for Women Rising include Ms. Bordo featured as a career and mentor expert on several young female lifestyle sites, continued public speaking and career mentoring. Also planned is a publication of successful female leaders’ stories telling the most alarming and inspiring tales of women working for women.
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