Last week I was agonizing over whether or not I had the courage/audacity/right/energy (depending on which side of the desk you’re sitting on) to voice my concerns about my internship at the think tank. But after bumping into another intern at a conference and comparing notes it became evident that my particular department had a high admin level and I was bearing the brunt of it: While he’d been in the British Library researching minimum wages I’d been counting magazines in a dusty stockroom.
So, galvanized with cold hard facts, and feeling a little optimistic that more challenging work was not just a pipe-dream, I was determined that I should get my slice of the pie. Now I’m not one for confrontation, even confrontation masquerading as constructive criticism, and such situations, no matter how polite and diplomatically phrased are always going to be a teeny bit awkward. But I blundered my way through the meeting: I was enthusiastic, wanted to be more involved, see more of the organisation, felt that I wasn’t really getting stuck in… – linguistic dance it was not.
However, the response of my supervisor was interesting. Rather than being outraged he seemed quite taken aback. It was clear that no one had dared to question their internship role in the past. I was momentarily wrong-footed by this revelation, who was I, a mere intern who had been allowed access into these hallowed halls to complain of exploitation? But hey, I’d already established this placement wasn’t a waiting game for gainful employment so there wasn’t much to lose.
So, after ten painful minutes I made my escape and tried not to think of what was being said about me in the office once the door had shut. However, two weeks on and I’m definitely glad that I did something. More effort has been made to keep me in the loop and I’ve been asked to do some more interesting tasks, although many of these are clearly concessions to my earlier concerns (mailouts are still my raison d’etre and take priority on my daily To Do list). So hardly a revolutionary moment, but I do think it’s important to remind the people at the top that while interns might be cheap resources, they still have their limits.