It’s been fun

As you can probably tell by the frequency of our posts, the Interns Anonymous blog has been winding down for some time. One threat of legal action too many has confirmed what we have been thinking for some time: we don’t have the time and energy to do this blog the justice it deserves. 

In the hands of our fellow campaigners, the brilliant Intern Aware, Graduate Fog and committed individuals like Mark Watson and Joe Thomas, the campaign against unpaid internships continues to make fantastic progress. There is much work still to be done but we both feel very proud that over the past four and a half years the issue of unpaid work has entered the public consciousness and businesses are beginning to understand what is right and what is wrong.

We’ve had great fun working on this campaign – from getting unpaid internships on to the front page of the Guardian, to being invited to discuss the issue with various government departments. One highlight (although this happens to almost every blogger!) was being contacted by the British Library for permission to archive the content of the blog for future researchers and historians. This, after all, was what Interns Anonymous was all about: cataloguing what the job market is like for our generation and giving a voice to those who didn’t and still don’t feel listened to.

To the hundreds of interns who have written to us with their experiences, to those we’ve met and the thousands more who have answered our surveys – THANK YOU SO MUCH. We started this blog in the pub, sitting with some friends who were all unpaid interns. We wondered how many interns there were – what they did all day and how they felt about it. Our maxim from four years ago still stands true today. Only by trying to make sense of what young people are experiencing in the job market can we have any hope of sorting out the issue of unemployment and underemployment. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: if you can’t afford to work for free, then you are effectively cut-off from a whole range of potential careers.

You can never say never but this blog and our email address are going to be pretty quiet from now on. 

Alex and Rosy

 

A dangerous figure, coming soon

Imagine all of the potential and anger of the UK young unemployed was channelled into a single powerful and dangerous figure. What would you ask it? What would it tell you?

This project enables that interaction with an online platform and installation at Somerset House. People under the age of 30 who are not in paid employment will enter their details into a facebook app and upload an image of their face. This information will be merged to form the archetypal unemployed young person, and will result in a sculptural installation in Somerset House. The non young unemployed general public are also invited to add questions to the database. The statue will then tour the UK in user-selected locations.

The more participants the figure has, the more powerful and representatives the figure becomes. So log in and talk to A Dangerous Figure!

Sneaky unpaid work trial

Our correspondent wished to name the company and we cannot verify the details of their story

I applied for a ‘creative content trainee’ position with MEC in Manchester after finishing my degree. MEC are one of the world’s ‘leading’ media agencies and are owned by a very large American company. I had two interviews – at which we discussed my experience (of which I had little, only university projects) and my creative ideas for two clients they had at the time (how to help them with SEO/ drive traffic to the website). After passing these interviews I was invited to do a three day trial at the office. During these three days I worked 9-5, barely allowed myself a lunch break, and worked my butt off to find a lot of blogs they hadn’t already found, which they could use to host guest posts. I negotiated with bloggers, worked on the project in the evenings at home and contributed a much needed alternative and fresh perspective on the project at hand. When the three days finished I was shown the door and contacted a week later to say I was ‘not experienced enough’.

OK let me dig into this.

As a poor graduate with no income, three weeks rent for the whole assessment (from interview to final decision) is a bit of an inconvenience. They knew exactly how much experience I had, as we had discussed this in not one, but TWO interviews. The very fact that they advertised the role as trainee led me to believe that little experience was required in the first place. The most annoying part of this was that they had dragged the experience out, set me up to believe I was seriously being considered for the role, took all the work I had put in for them and said cheerio without paying me. I was so furious that they had blatantly used me that I replied to the head manager to ask why they had wasted my time and money, and could they please pay me for the three days I worked. I got no response.

Aside from this I found some of their practices dodgy. For example, I was asked to create a fake alias and gmail address with which to contact bloggers and websites. I expected to use a company email address or at least, I assumed the permanent staff in the team would. I was shocked to find they all had fake names, twitter and gmail accounts. Not very ethical for such a large company?  

I am certain they did this to a number of graduates as the post was advertised on their website for about 4 months. Getting unsuspecting and naive grads to undertake a three day work trial appears to be a little loophole they took advantage of – saving costs, and stealing fresh ideas they couldn’t think of themselves.

This was only three days, but I wanted to flag this company for the attention of other graduates thinking of applying to any MEC vacancies. Don’t waste your time and energy!

A two month long trial shift: fashion fails again

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…we get this in the mail. Our correspondent included two tweets as screen shots, we are posting them because they asked us to. 

I have recently been unfairly dismissed from the owner of a design house because I told them they were being unrealistic with the volume of garments demanded to be produced per day… 

I started a ‘trial month’ that soon turned into a two month trial the day I started and later found that other graduates on trial had been there for three months or more.

I relocated because it was a requirement. I was told I had to work full time and was given no funding whatsoever. I was expected to pay for rent, bills, food and travel myself.

After the first few days it soon became apparent that there was only one full time paid member of staff. The rest were interns. I also met the owner of the company (for the first time) after 5 full days of work.

I was expected to work a minimum of 10 hours a day. We were never told what time to we would be allowed to leave in the evening until the last minute.

I was put on the production line immediately. With no training whatsoever I was making garments to be sold for profit.

Feeling concerned about the businesses set up (majority unpaid interns, looked like there were no job prospects despite being invited for a ‘trial period’) I broke down, told the design assistant that I had concerns. She asked the owner to speak to me. She saw that I had been crying… laughed at me and asked what was wrong. She then went on to say that she didn’t have time to see how everyone was feeling, she was always too busy. “I’m a cold heartless bitch, that’s just the way I am” As if I was just supposed to accept that and move on….

I decided to stick it out and hope things would get better…

 

They didn’t.

Last week, at the end of my third week working for the company I was asked to fill out a timetable that had been put on the wall for each intern. I explained that once I had made a certain style of dress I would know how many I could make in a day. Her response was “It’s not about how many you want to make in a day, it’s how many you HAVE to make. If you have 50 dresses to make in a day you have to make 50” I then explained that she was being unrealistic in her expectations and that it only made sense for me to put down as many as I could feasibly make in a day. She then went on to say “don’t argue with me I’ve been working in this industry for years” I started to walk away after saying that I couldn’t talk to her about this as she was being unreasonable. She then shouted at me “get your stuff together and leave, go home”

I was given no appreciation for the work I had completed. She didn’t care who I was, I was just a number. Free labour.

To add insult to injury she later put this on twitter…

Image

Seeing this was heart wrenching. I felt embarrassed and stupid. Having such a bad experience in an industry that I had previously felt so passionately about has almost put me off entirely. The worse thing is that evidently this happened before hence ‘another intern has been asked to leave’ yet most are too ashamed to tell anyone. I’m furious. Having met so many talented interns at this placement I am concerned that their hopes and dreams will be shattered too. 

Graduate Talent Pool – still unreliable, still dodgy

We have taken the original post down for the moment…

Internships and PhDs in the humanities: notes from the USA

This article was written by Sofia Rasmussen, who has written a lot of great stuff about PhDs, internships and jobs – this gives us an idea of what interns experience in the USA

Not all internship experiences will be great. In fact, most won’t be. Sure, it’s a line on a resume, something to bolster your academic career or add legitimacy to your online phd programme and maybe you’ll get hands-on experience in the field you hope to make permanent someday. But, with properly tempered expectations, participants can and will make it through them. Know that the average internship is underpaid, if paid at all, and those The Devil Wears Prada horror stories are based in reality. Interns are treated poorly, looked down on, stuck in mail rooms and warehouse positions with little to do with the actual industry.

An intern at Anne Bowen, who would prefer to remain nameless, reflects on her experience, “As design assistant, I had the honor of working very closely with Anne herself. On a day to day basis, I was expected to cater to her every whim (which included dropping everything at any time to do what she deemed as more important), clean up her dog’s droppings from the carpet, and change light bulbs, all while single-handedly managing any and all production and making sure deadlines were met and dresses were beaded.” For a student planning a career in fashion, it’s hard to see what true knowledge is gained by changing light bulbs and cleaning up after a dog.

A grad student who goes only by Jane said of the internship program in clinical psychology at  Alliant National University, “The APA internship match rate is a joke. You will not get a decent job after completing 5 years of doctoral training here. Plus you may never graduate because they abuse and dismiss students. Some of the programs have a 50% attrition rate too.” This is one of the biggest internship problems: despite long hours and hard training, you’re no closer to your career than you were before you stepped through the doors.

Gawker was privy to a leak from the New York Sun’s Guidelines for Interns:  “Internships will be terminated for any intern who, between 6pm and the end of the press run, fails to answer calls to his or her mobile phone for more than 30 minutes. It is therefore recommended that subway rides of more than 30 minutes be avoided.”

That’s not a dramatization of the intern experience at the New York Sun; it’s an element of the internship that the magazine freely admits. The magazine also warns interns in their manual that any intern who even asks about a byline, let alone complains, will be terminated. Not really any impetus to stick with a career in publishing.

It’s no secret that a bad interning experience can break a potential career. Though some internships do turn into full time job offers, and there are dozens of companies with great internship programs that an intern would be happy to take long term, it’s important to view the average internship as a learning experience. Have hope! Even the worst internship comes with one huge plus: when you go into an interview, and you’re asked about the worst working conditions you’ve ever had, you’ll have an answer. And a solid one at that.

At an unpaid internship at a designer label

I was…

>> forced to work over 8 hours a day – sometimes over 10 hours a day (they made me sign a contract in which I had to agree with this)

>> given no payment, no meals, no accommodation, no transport money

>> forced to be available to work on public holidays and week-ends

>> given hard physical, mindless or non-educational work(such as tidying-up)

>>  not given proper training

>> advised by the supervisor not  to ask any questions related to their work as it disturbs them and makes me too nosey

>> not (in the least) to expect a job offer

>> to treat my employer with great kindness and gratitude

>> not even thanked for my work after working at least 480 hours for a profit making company

>> sent on dozens of errands lasting almost all day – even when it was pouring with rain at 10 degrees – with two 20kg heavy suitcases to pull

>> given a letter of recommendation that did not mention the tasks that I HAVE done, but those that I have NOT done(the tasks that were not offered to me in the first place)

>> given a letter of recommendation that makes it look like I have refused to do tasks given to me(which is not the case, since they were just not given to me) and underlines knowledge that I lack, rather that my skills and capabilities

>> after spending hard labour and at least over £1200(money for accommodation, transport and food) on this 3 month internship, giving the company valuable material to make profit on, I was given nothing to help further my career

Generally at this company:

>> when sick, interns still come to work and take painkillers as not to attract attention

>> many interns keep quiet about bad treatment and many hours of no sleep as not to ruin their career

>> the interns have no one to legally support them when they are not even given a decent letter of recommendation

The small UK company is a high fashion label of the fashion industry that “employs” about 15 interns per year. Its owner has only one permanent employee.

This is not only about no wages, but about bad immoral treatment, modern day slavery. I was treated with no respect and it made me feel worthless, even though I know they have gained so much from the work I have done for them. Is this humane? Is this legal?

We need to put an end to this! Please monitor internships and set-up a representative that fights for or rights and black lists such companies!

Also graduates suffer – they don’t find any paid jobs because of all the free labour…

To whoever sent this email in – do get in touch (as anonymously as you like) as we’d like to help you out


Interns Anonymous

We want this website to be a forum for interns to share their experiences and discuss the ethics of unpaid employment. Most importantly, we want this site to be a place where YOU can tell us your story.

Disclaimer

Interns Anonymous accept no responsibility for the contents of the blog, comments or any other content on this site that is posted or provided by third parties. This website is designed to act as a forum for interns to share experiences and opinions about their work, therefore, we will not censor opinions we do not agree with. The opinions stated in blog contributions do not represent those of Interns Anonymous. We disclaim all liability for such content to the fullest extent permitted by law. If you have any queries please email us.

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