Archive for October, 2009

Interning in Germany… a different experience

I interned for a company in Germany whose main role was to teach English to business employees, but they also did some translation and editing work. I was given work to do in all three areas. I was really grateful for the experience itself but I thought I should be paid, especially as I had relocated to Germany for the period, and asked for a small salary. Maybe it was a bit cheeky but when I thought about it, each translation and piece of editing work I did and each class I taught would have been given to a permanent member of the company if I hadn’t been there, and that person would have been paid. The company were really great about it and not only gave me a small salary to help towards my rent but also made me a paid-up temporary member of teaching staff, so that I got a fee for each class I taught.

Maybe my experience was atypical but I can’t help feeling that, in Europe, a more sympathetic attitude is taken towards interns. This company didn’t even normally pay interns but they did their best to help me out and never once did it seem that I was being taken for granted. In France, interns are nearly always paid; generally about 300 euros monthly. It’s really not much, but I think it has symbolic as well as monetary value. It says: “We can’t take you on as a paid worker but we’re grateful for the work you do” rather than, “You’re just another useless student who’s lucky to get a free Pret sandwich out of us”.

Parliamentary commission highlights role of interns:

The House of Commons Commission’s report on Employment of Members’ staff by the House , published yesterday, sets out proposed changes to the staff-employer relationship in the House of Commons.

There isn’t a great deal in the report to cheer interns, whose status it recommends remains that of non-employees. It does however highlight the fact that if expected to: ‘work at specific times or to complete specific work, they are no longer volunteers but employees and some employment legislation will apply, such as the minimum wage’.

Young, talented and working for free

Behold! Interns Anonymous and Judgement Productions present a short but sweet documentary on internships.

NB: We are keeping this post at the top of the page for now – but please scroll down to see new posts as they arrive.

In a series of interviews, interns talk about their highs and lows, how they afford to work for free, the ways in which internships restrict social mobility and alternative systems to those that operate in the UK.

Graduate jobs crisis is only going to get worse

A sobering article in the Times from Martin Birchall, a managing director of High Fliers Research and editor of The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers.

The plight of graduates has been making headlines since the start of the year. Predictions of the likely fate of those who left university this summer vary, but several estimates suggest that up to one in six new graduates will be unemployed. And that’s not to say that all of the remainder will find work — a third are expected to take refuge in further study or opt for a year out.

The recession has taken its toll on the graduate job market. About a fifth of entry-level vacancies — outside vocational areas such as teaching and medicine — have been cut during the past two years, taking graduate recruitment back to 2005 levels.

This may not sound particularly dramatic — the official graduate unemployment rate that year was a modest 7 per cent, about 15,000 individuals — but, in the four years since then, the student population has grown substantially, spurred on by the Government’s target for 50 per cent of school-leavers to go on to university. This means that an extra 40,000 graduates completed degrees this year, compared with 2005, turning a relatively modest downturn in graduate vacancies into a crisis for university-leavers.

Continue reading ‘Graduate jobs crisis is only going to get worse’

Sports Journalism: From the Guardian Careers discussion on Internships

I’m a recent NCTJ graduate seeking work as a sports journalist. I have already completed one unpaid internship and intend to start another very soon in London.

I fully appreciate that for some people internships, especially long-term ones, can be difficult to commit to due to financial restrictions. But, for me it all boils down to how much desire you have to succed in your chosen career.

After completing my studies earlier this year I found it hard to find full-time work as a journalist and decided that completing an internship was the answer. However, I didn’t have much money so I moved home to save on rent and embarked on a three-month money saving mission. I took the first two jobs I was offered on a building site and in an Ice Cream parlour and I saved enough money to move to London and begin an Internship.

I fully believe that the money I made knocking down walls and selling Calippos, Fabs and Madagascan Dark Chocolate Magnums to enable myself to do another internship will lead me into the career I so passionatly want to succed in.

During my first internship I felt I was genuinely producing better stories than some of the staff reporters and politely took it up with the editor. He agreed I was contributing well to the running of the website and agreed to pay me full expenses. He said that me doing this demonstrated maturity and confidence in my ability. I have since started to do freelance work for the same website.

My experiences of interning have been very positive and have given me an insight into the world I want to work in. Without this experience I feel I would be far less equipped to find full-time work and perform well once employed.

Guardian- Week 11: Diary of an intern …

The Guardian is publishing an intern’s diary every week:

In the interests of honesty the identity of the intern will not be revealed, nor will the paper be identified and any colleagues mentioned will have been renamed

Monday
The new head of content has begun after several of the paper’s more senior journalists deputising over the past few weeks. He’s wasted no time in stamping his authority on the place, although he’s worked for other papers in the group and everyone knows him quite well.

The bloke is also a very funny and outgoing kind of journalist, and I think he’s already made things a bit more relaxed around the place. His language is more than a bit colourful, although that doesn’t bother me one bit. I’ve struck up a bit of a rapport with him as well so hopefully he’s going to become aware of my talents.

Tuesday
Podcast recording is a bit of a hotchpotch this week due to circumstances Ricky and I can’t control. Still, this week’s isn’t necessarily worse off content-wise, but we’ve run into some potential problems which have meant it’s not as good as the previous two.

A graduate on work experience has started pestering me a little bit. I tried to think back to what it was like for me when I’ve done similar placements, but to be honest this is really starting to grate. I’m all for being keen and enthusiastic but this person is doing my head-in with their constant querying.

Thursday
Ricky agreed to give me yesterday off so that I could cover a local awards ceremony on video for the website today. I’m a bit bemused as to why I was sent on this, after all, there are about three or four others with significant video experience and this is a big, important job. It went on for quite a few hours, but I managed to have a decent conversation with a photographer during a break in proceedings. He was very supportive and friendly, so that certainly made me feel more valued.

Friday
The awards ceremony ended in the early hours, after which I had to return the equipment to HQ. Ricky kindly let me have an extra hour in bed to get some kind of rest before the day’s work.

However, I was then sent on another video assignment in the afternoon. This is the first time during the eleven weeks that I feel I’ve been taken advantage of. I’m not that good at this kind of task and due to the fact I’ve barely any experience, I was shattered from ‘going the extra mile’ as the editor politely told me at last night’s event, and yet I’m being sent out to do something no-one else could be bothered to take responsibility for.

Guardian careers Q and A session

The Guardian careers section is running a Live Q&A session online this coming Friday. The session will focus on internships and the exploitation of graduates vs. the importance of experience in your chosen field.

A panel of experts (including us) will be online and able to answer any questions you have about internships.

The session is running from 1pm-4pm on Friday 23rd October.

If you want some advice on the best way to go forward with your chosen careers then visit guardian careers this Friday!

A bit of perspective

We wanted to repost this comment as a blog in its own right:

I’m 29 now, with enough experience behind me to work as a freelancer for a comfortable day rate, and with the experience and company insights only afforded to those who work in lots of different agencies over the years.

I started off interning (for free) back in the day, but I’ll come to that. At the moment my sister has just finished her degree and is currently experiencing the wonders and horrors of the world of fashion PR.

She left her first internship last week after being hauled into the MD’s office, sworn at, and told ‘now f**k off and don’t cry’. This was the accumulation of weeks of abuse – simply because she was an intern, and if under contract could have hauled this horrible creature straight to a tribunal. So until she was told to get lost, she stuffed envelopes, cleaned out cupboards and photocopied. The rest of the staff ignored her, and she was even told not to put sugar in her tea because ’sugar isn’t for interns – it’s just for us and the clients’.

When she was asked to leave, she was told it was because she’d been asking for more work and this was not something they could offer her – ‘all our interns do is photocopy and stuff envelopes, so if you don’t like it, i suggest you f**k off’.

Through the grapevine she’s heard she was not the first to be treated this way for asking for more to do.

I think there’s very fine line between companies using an intern – essentially someone who may have the capabilities but who does not have the experience – to gain exposure to an agency environment and learn about how agency-life operates, and those who treat their interns as second class citizens, purely because they can.

From my own experience, in both my working life and as an intern (for a high-end fashion house) – there are always agencies who treat their staff badly and those who don’t – at all levels and rungs of the ladder. I’ve had the pleasure of working for pretty much all of them – from those who have allowed superiors to bully me, to those who have made my job the most enjoyable and inspiring thing in the world.

Although an internship is the very first step (and praise to those who can get and keep a good one in this economic climate), you will no doubt be given jobs you feel are not within your remit (as you will during paid work). Although some unhappy worker bees may tell you otherwise, the agency you are working for should encourage a friendly, supportive and approachable environment you should look forward to working at each day. If it doesn’t then get your CV out there and look for something else. You have nothing to lose and believe me – there are other opportunities out there!

Intern Summit in Parliament

Last Monday over 100 interns, MPs and lobbyists gathered together to discuss the state of internships in Westminster. Interns Anonymous had a vested interest in the proceedings- we have supported Phil Willis and his attempts to clean up the Parliamentary system from the off, and were showing a clip of our documentary after the speakers.

Those giving speeches at the event included Speaker Bercow, Charles Clarke, David Willets and NUS President Wes Streeting. Dan Whittle, president of the parliamentary branch of Unite hosted the evening and also spoke. Audio clips of the evening are included below, but I will also offer some thoughts on the evening (albeit belatedly). [Technical problems with the audio clips... but they will be online eventually]

The most eagerly anticipated contribution came from Speaker Bercow, who chairs the Members’ Estimates Committee. The Committee will be looking at MPs expenses and pay, including staffing allowances and hopefully the question of interns pay too. Phil Willis made a formal request to the Committee to look at the issue of internships after this meeting.

Bercow himself demonstrated many of the negative traits mentioned during his speaker-campaign. He spoke for a long time, using convoluted sentences when only a few words were required. Most frustrating of all, he shied away from making a commitment to reform.

However, I can see why he does not want to pre-empt policy. He finished by saying: ‘This will not go away, it cannot be brushed under the carpet… I am listening’.

To get a figure of his stature at the event was certainly a coup. And Phil Willis and his team should be praised for engaging with him on the issue. It certainly fits into the wider parliamentary reform agenda.

David Willets acknowledged the dicey legal issues many MPs are dealing with in their recruitment of interns. Having admitted it’s a legal grey area… if he does have interns, I hope he pays them.

Phil Willis, who came out of the meeting head and shoulders above anyone else, said

“Interns are now an integral part in the staffing structure of our Parliament, it’s essential to kick-on and ensure that they not only receive the appropriate recognition for their contribution, but that the authorities develop a kite mark or minimum standard for internships to ensure that they get a really first class experience and appropriate reward.”

Be it minimum wage, or the guarantee of a great experience, I think this is an excellent place to start.

Truro & Falmouth Interns revisited

Truro & Falmouth Liberal Democrats are seeking interns to join Terrye Teverson’s General Election campaign team.

Wait a minute? That wouldn’t be the same Terrye Teverson who was exposed in the local press for advertising for an intern role which broke minimum wage laws was it? Just a few weeks ago? Yes it is!

Ahh! But she has learnt. From her advert:

Please note that this internship is a voluntary position.
No fixed hours or duties are therefore set.

If this is kept to then it does not break NMW laws. Other MPs and PPCs, please note.

Ed Fordham Update: the advert has been removed

From the Ham and High newspaper:

PROSPECTIVE Parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn Ed Fordham has removed an advert for an unpaid role in his campaign team following a challenge by a member of the public.

The advertised role involved arranging the Liberal Democrat candidate’s diary, dealing with media enquires, writing and planning press releases and working in the local campaign office, and stated the worker must be prepared to work flexible hours.

Wanted: one unpaid Intern… or should that be chauffeur!

ed-headThe election is nearing and local parties are beginning to get down to the difficult task of campaigning. That means plenty of volunteers need to be enlisted to help!

This also means a whole host of unpaid graduates are being recruited as ‘campaigns interns’. All parties are at fault for this. But have a look at Ed Fordham, Lib Dem PPC for Hampstead and Kilburn.

It’s a very winnable seat for the Lib Dems… but they don’t seem to be putting much money into the campaign as their FULL TIME AIDE / PRESS & MEDIA OFFICER will be an unpaid intern.

To quote the advert:

“Ed now needs someone dedicated to managing his diary and handling media enquiries”…

Sounds like a job to me…

But they will be only paid… “Modest travel and lunch expenses”. Modest! 50p for a loaf of bread from Tesco?

Duties would entail:

  • Arranging the candidate’s diary
  • Dealing with media enquires
  • Writing and planning press releases
  • Accompanying the candidate on the campaign trail
  • Working in the local campaign office

“and a driving licence would be a bonus.”

An intern Chauffeur! This is a new one.

It goes on… “Be prepared to work flexible hours to suit the pace of the campaign”. Ahh… so as an intern you wont be able to come and go as you please. If you get elected Mr Fordham.. will you vote to ditch minimum wage laws? You seem to be breaking them pretty clearly here.

Fordham’s office were contacted for comment but never replied. They have been told this is breaking National Minimum Wage laws, yet they are doing nothing about it… unlike this Lib Dem, who changed their policy after being outed in the local press.

Anyone write for a local paper in Hampstead and Kilburn?


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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