Tag Archives: unpaid internships

Numbers on Your Bank Statement or Letters After Your Name?

15 May

Reality has hit. Five days ago I was rollerblading down the Venice Beach Board Walk with my worldly concerns consisting of whether I was going to have a sandwich or a salad for lunch. I am now sitting at home in front of my laptop, it is overcast (pathetic fallacy), and I am faced with a saturated graduate job market that I have today learnt is in an even worse state than I had first thought.

I’ll put this in context for you: yesterday I was told that the job I had believed I could walk back into post-travelling is not actually available for me. More staff have been taken on and there simply aren’t the financial provisions to cope with another full-timer. This was gutting, but it is reality; very few people can gallivant around the world for four months and happily stroll into their previous job the following Monday morning like nothing but a weekend has passed.

I used yesterday to adapt to the idea and allowed myself to wallow in a touch of self pity, but today my intentions were to be pro-active. Never mind that I am likely to get rejected from 99% of applications (as per), if you don’t try you won’t achieve (etc. etc.). So I was mindlessly scrolling through my Facebook feed, mentally preparing myself to browse the hundreds of different roles that I might fruitlessly apply for, when I came across a link. The link was to an auction site set up to facilitate the financial biddings for unpaid internships.

Not bids for the latest smart-phone, or for lunch with your favourite celebrity, but for an internship. People are really, truly and seriously offering to pay money (not earn it) to partake in an internship. And only a week-long one at that.

Who are these people, was my first thought. To feel quite frankly disgusted at the companies accepting it, was my second.

As a recent graduate, I am currently enjoying the first time in six (yes SIX) years that I do not have to endure a set of vital exams. First there were GCSEs; “you won’t get in to college without your GCSEs”, they said, “and without college you won’t get a good job”. Next there were A-levels; “you won’t get into a good university without your three As”, they said, “and if you don’t make it into a good university you won’t get a good job”. The final three years were my law degree. “You’ve got to pass the year”, they said, “if you don’t pass the year you can’t complete your degree.”  And guess what! If you don’t complete your degree you won’t get a good job.

If only we knew

If only we knew

Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t exchange my degree for anything. But when I recall (genuinely) spending up to twenty hours a day in that cesspit of a library, slowly merging my soul with a statute book, I remember what my motivation was. My motivation was that very set of words: I want to get a good job.

Back in January I was interning at the New Statesman, and I wrote an article on recent statistics that morbidly revealed how most graduate jobs would be reserved for those who had undertaken internships. It is therefore horrifying that these internships are not even being given on merit anymore, but are instead being awarded to those whose families can afford it. I thought the point of education was to work hard and see your efforts rewarded by success in a career. How optimistic; how naïve!

The whole idea just seems totally redundant; for starters I can’t even begin to imagine what Barbara Weiss Architects or Crossbridge Capital LLP are intending to teach this (probable) trust fund beneficiary  in one lone week.  I can’t understand what it would bring to the company, or to the individual. They have not worked for this opportunity, they have paid for it.

As somebody who wants to go into journalism, I have completed numerous internships, all of which have been unpaid. But I have never felt that I have been taken advantage of. I have gained something from them all; from training, to contacts and by-lines. But this is advantage-taking in its most raw form. It is social segregation to an unprecedented extent and it is manipulating the desperate ambition of most who are newly graduated.

I can’t afford to work for free anymore, which means I am already questioning where I should go from here. But if it became the norm for me to pay employers for the pleasure of my company? Well I may as well just give up now.

I am lucky enough to live near London, most people don’t even have that. But my family cannot, and more importantly would not, pay for an opportunity that I should be creating myself.

At this time of year I see students ordering in takeaway meals to the library so they don’t miss out on even twenty minutes of revision. What is it all for? That level of dedication and hard work suddenly seems futile when they are only going to be released into a job market that has become so barren and disheartening.  I know I am not the first person to rant about this, and I certainly won’t be the last. But the fact that some companies are more interested in the numbers on your bank statement than the letters after your name is both ludicrous and demoralising, and they should be ashamed of themselves.

NB: one of the bids currently stands at £400. But if a lack of morals and achievements excites you, then be my guest! Bid away!