Flying into the office a few days a week seems like the best of both worlds, but there are some hidden downsides.
This past week a story went viral about a summer intern who flies into work each week. It sounds like a twenty-first century high flying (literally and figuratively) lifestyle. However, it’s not quite what you would expect.
First, let’s cut through the hype. Twenty-one-year-old Sophia Celentano lives in South Carolina and took a job at Ogilvy Health in New Jersey. Reports are that similar internships at Ogilvy pay around $15-20 an hour. Living close to New York City incurs a very high cost of living, which would be hard on that hourly rate. Living close to her job in New Jersey, while cheaper than New York City, would still be pricey and would likely require a car. Because she only needs to be in the office one day a week, she flies up for the day on Spirit Airlines. She said each week it’s $100 in airfare and another $100 in rideshare costs. Given that she can live at home where laundry and maybe even meals are free, this is clearly the right financial choice. Couldn’t you do the same?
The option Sophia chose (even if just for the summer) has two advantages over living in New York City suburbs. First, it’s cheaper; second, it’s a better lifestyle (for her needs as a college student). The downside however is limited engagement (not to mention the pain of having to fly Spirit airlines each week).
She is in the office just one day a week. This limits her interaction and networking opportunities with others in the company, particularly in groups where she has limited direct contact through her duties. It also limits her spontaneous conversations, the ones at the proverbial water cooler, where she would learn career skills, become aware of useful information about the company or industry, uncover new ideas and opportunities, or simply stand out more with her colleagues.
Outside the office she will have fewer professional networking opportunities. Obviously, she has her network of friends back at home. Living in another city would expand her network. Within a community there are professional organizations and events where she could meet other people in the field. Even at general business events or simply social events she could meet people outside her industry, important for bringing professional diversity into her network.
Again, she made what was clearly a good choice for her given that it was a summer internship and there was a high cost of living in an area without social appeal for someone her age. It’s important to understand the longer-term career limitations, as well as the upside, when deciding to do such a long commute and spend limited time in and near the office.
It’s critical to learn about corporate culture before you accept a job offer but it can be awkward to raise such questions. Learn what to ask and how to ask it to avoid landing yourself in a bad situation.