Thursday, 26 August 2010

I heart being unpaid 4evarrrr

Yesterday I had an "informal interview" for an internship.

In the past week I'd gone from being wildly enthusiastic about it, to having the reaction you'd have if your mum wanted to take you on a trip to Marks and Spencer. In that, god, following your mum around a M&S clothes store without weeping is hard, but if you stick with it, there's always the chance she might buy you  Kurt Geiger goodies afterwards.

I've been padding around the job market for a while now, and in that time certain things have come to light. There is quite an online furore going on about unpaid internships at the moment; if they're legal, if they're exploitative, where the line is drawn between giving someone experience and just getting free labour. Ultimately, the argument doesn't come down to whether you've got someone working for free at your company, but rather, whether that person is filling a role that would otherwise be paid.

I've done internships before, all of them have been completely unpaid. No expenses, nuffin. I know the benefits. I know that I wouldn't have scored a production job at the Big Broadcasting Company without one. I also know that working hours are seldom 9-5, (10-6 in telly), as you're implicitly expected to stay after hours, attend events and help out whenever required.

I know that when it comes to getting a job as a result, a lot of it comes down to luck. Sometimes there's a job going, sometimes there isn't. Your chances are vastly improved if the company is running the internship in order to find and train someone to do a particular role. But if taking an intern on is a standard thing they do every 3-4 months, then alarm bells start jangling quietly in my head. After all, why would they pay someone to do a job, when there is a healthy pool of graduates willing to do it for free?

The fact is, if I get offered this expenses-only internship, I'll be working for no money up until the most expensive time of the year. At which point I'll be trotting into 2011 in much the same situation that I'm in now, albeit with more experience under my belt.

The interview went well, and I came away thinking that if they offer me the position, I'll take it. But I was honest with them - my eyes will remain well and truly open to the opportunities around me while I'm there.

We'll see what happens. I'm not sure if my fingers are crossed or not for this one.


nuttycow said...

Good luck! When do you find out?

Anonymous said...

Good luck Jo.

Worst case you can come work for me. Though some would say that really would be the worst case!

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Nuttycow - Next day or so? In two minds about it, to be fair.

Perp - I could be, like, office tea lady or something. Wear a little apron. Maybe a hair net. And grumble about the weather.

Anonymous said...

Steady Jo, thought I'd start you out with an internship for starters ;)

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Will you at least lend me an Aston to get to work in?

Emsbabee said...

What's it for? As soon as I hear the word internship I automatically start sniffing around for bullshit.

It's kind of like being asked to write for 'a valuable addition to your portfolio' i.e a far more valuable addition to somebody's flagging budget.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

It's in the marketing team at a big london arts venue. Yeah, I'm sceptical about internships too. But I made good use of the 'do you have any questions for us?' part of the interview, and was told that they basically can't afford to pay someone to do the role so always have an intern in. Saying that, it's the arts industry in a recession...and there could be opportunities in other departments, and an internal job board to scour. You never know.

Gloria said...

Good luck Jo.

I have debated bringing on interns at my workplace and am undecided. Ideally an internship would lead to a paid role which is contracted or permanent. I'd be nervous bringing someone on without having the funds to then employ them... but that's me & I know many people who don't worry about it.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Gloria, that's the thing. I'm less inclined to work somewhere if they don't have the funds to employ someone for even a basic assistant role. Doesn't hold well for the rest of your career! But then again, it's all about making contacts.

Definitely a double sided coin.

London-Lass said...

Have fingers crossed for you cautiously but, just like with everything else, I guess that only time will tell (if this is a genuine once in a lifetime opportunity or just a cartload of horse wot-not). (Unless, of course, you happen to know any psychic crystal ball owners?)

Anonymous said...

I heard returnship, an internship-like program is desirable to explore, it provides flexible opportunities for mid-career individuals to re-enter the workforce following an extended leave.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

Londonlass - Indeed, I think most unpaid internships are just a cover for getting someone to work for free...but if it looks good on a CV, it looks good on a CV.

Echophyber - An interesting concept. If only I had a career to be mid-way through, that would certainly be a good idea!


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