Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Unpaid internships - YAY or NAY?

Image source: Google
Internships offer a great and easy way to work for a company, giving you the opportunity to be more than just 'the work experience kid' whilst you are not bombarded with as much responsibility as a full on employee. So, what happens if you come across an internship that seems pretty much perfect? By perfect I mean that it's in the best industry for you, the job description is great and it's in the most convenient location. The only problem? It is completely, 100%, absolutely... unpaid. Would you still apply or keep on searching?  Are unpaid internships just another typical part of the graduate experience that we should all accept? Should they be banned completely or should an internship be snapped up regardless of the pay or not? Internships can of course offer a unique experience, both for the intern and the company, however, they can differ extremely from company to company and intern to intern.  They could offer you the chance to really explore your talents, gaining the right type of experience for you and can even lead to a full time job at the end of the placement. While, on the other hand, an internship can be detrimental - turning you from a budding intern to an office slave; wasting your time, skills and effort, with nothing but the promise of 'it will look good on your CV' at the end of it. It will look good on your CV... but have you learnt anything worth while?

 Whenever I have come across any internship placements, I try and follow a three step rule:

 1. The company: What type of company will I be interning at? Are they well established and will they offer me the right type of experience I am looking for?
2. Length of placement: Will I be working, unpaid and full time, for longer than one month?  How long can I, realistically, afford to work unpaid for?
3. Location: Is the placement far or near? Will it be a mission to get to or just a bus ride away?

When I first graduated from uni I would spend hours upon hours applying for jobs and internships - any that I could find really within the media industry. Nine months on and I have slightly changed my approach to things with the above three step rule. I don't know if this makes me extremely picky or not but I've found that being specific saves time and allows me to take extra care when filling in application forms.  Having recently quit an unpaid placement at a local radio station I realise that many companies, especially the less well known ones, rely heavily on interns.  Of course, it was a great experience but after a couple of months I felt that I had not been learning anything new or broadening my skills on the placement.  It dawned on me that while it may be great to be offered an internship, could I realistically afford to work at some of the places that I had been applying to? Looking for work instantly places you as the underdog and just a face amongst the sea of applicants. At the same time, however, you still have a right to learn and grow on any placement, whichever industry it is in. I'm not saying all unpaid placements are bad, but from personal experience, I have yet to really gain anything from one.  I also find that industries such as media or fashion are swamped with applicants that we will gladly snap up any opportunities in these industries, paid or not.  I've read many articles on this issue and they have ranged in conclusion - some stating that unpaid internships are a form of 'exploited labour' while others simply state that they are something every graduate should go through.  I wouldn't exactly say that they are form of 'exploited labour' or that they are 'immoral' but neither should a graduate be ridiculed for turning down an unpaid internship or for requesting to be paid after working for a company for a couple of months.  Ultimately, I think what it comes down to for me, and I suspect for many of you guys too, is the content of the internship, the company, length of time and location.  I'm not calling for a ban on unpaid or voluntary internships but, just because prospects may be bleak for graduates and job seekers doesn't mean we should compromise our worth or growth in the workplace.

What do you guys think:
 Have you ever had an unpaid internship and regretted it? 
Do you have any tips to follow when job hunting?

1 comment:

  1. Im so goad the post was motivating :) trust me im the same hun, i think the only reason ive been commited so far is by taking daily progress pics on instagram, and not procrastinating as it makes me stressed xx


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