Archive for November, 2009

People who pay for internships are lazy

Regarding the current BBC news article ‘Intern fees: ‘salt in the wound”, I would like to express my views on the positivity of such internships. I am a graduate currently in a very successful internship that I found through the Government’s Graduate Talent Pool.

Having graduated in 2008, I took a gap year to travel the world. On my return this summer I had intended to start my career, ideally in the Public Relations industry. However, due to the current economic climate I found jobs hard to come by and those that I did apply for required vital industry experience. I used the government’s Graduate Talent Pool to find a suitable internship to suit both my needs and those of my employer. I am currently working on a temporary 3 month contract as a PR and Marketing Coordinator for a very small business. Most notably however, I am being paid. Although it may only be the minimum wage, it is priceless experience for a graduate in this ever-increasing competitive environment. I am gaining the skills, training, insight and routine of the industry while my employer gains a willing and keen staff member at a small cost. This ‘on-the-job’ experience has already proved to be advantage as I have since been successfully called for interviews, at which I have been able to communicate my active current role and enthusiasm, all of which I gained from the internship. If you look hard enough and are determined, there are internships that will value graduates.

And to those who pay agencies to look over their CVs and train them for interviews for extortionate fees, surely it shows little initiative, laziness and stupidity. What employer would want to employ them anyway?

The role of internships for employers

I originally found your site after reading this BBC article.

I wanted to read about your points-of-views to make sure we treat our interns (currently 2) as well as possible.

Most of what I read is extremely fair and I too find it sickening that some companies see it as a way to get free labour. I hope this isn’t as prevalent as some of the articles make out.

One thing I was a little worried about is that it seems some people what internships banning or a minimum wage implemented.

I was concerned that this would ruin the good opportunities for others. The guys that we currently have on board, I hope find working with us extremely useful for experience and know that they will be offered a fair wage a they progress (in fact one of them was offered a wage 4 days in to his internship as he is so good!). But we wouldn’t have been able to take the risk investing training and time into unproven employees. I know some have qualifications but there so many people with qualifications AND experience looking for work it just wouldn’t make sense to take them on.

That said we have taken a gamble on a couple of people without even qualifications. One great, one awful.

What I really want to say is that internships are a great way for agencies to test a persons ‘ unproven skills and have a workforce bolstered for little or no cost, and they can be a great way for people to prove themselves and make themselves an invaluable asset.

However we have had a few interns that have missed the point or had a bad attitude and I would say from most of the people I interview graduates have extremely unrealistic expectations. For instance one guy who joined us on a three month contract demanded a £15k wage after just a month – and a month of arriving late and leaving early! It’s a pity as he had a lot of potential and if he had a bit more dedication would have fitted in very nicely.

I hope some of this is a useful view of things from an agencies perspective.

From intern to employee

It’s official folks: it can happen. 

I’ve made the transition from parliamentary intern to parliamentary researcher in just three and a half months.

A while back I wrote the piece “valuable but difficult: living on the biscuit collection”.  I was depressed and demoralised; I felt more like throwing the towel in than Daniel Hannam did when DC back-tracked on that “cast- iron” guarantee. 

But, I persevered. I had to – what was the alternative, to just give up on everything I had worked so hard for? No, I wasn’t giving up that easily and with every application that was rejected I became more determined that I would get there eventually, and I did. And you will too.

Here are my tips for making the most of your internship in parliament:

1.               Make peace

The sooner you accept the nature of the beast the better in my opinion. Interning is a necessary evil and you need to make peace with the fact that you will be doing this for the next six months to a year.

Continue reading ‘From intern to employee’

HMRC to say internships must be paid?

A mole has told us that HMRC are soon to publish a set of guidelines which recognise “internships” in terms of the National Minimum Wage.

If true, these guidelines will say that internships are a “step up” from work experience; suggest a longer time period; and crucially they MUST BE PAID.

We understand this document will be relevant to all areas of work, and will give all employers an official document to be referred to follow.

However, the law as it stands is pretty clear – if you are working set hours, are relied upon to do set tasks, and are not a student – then you should be paid minimum wage for your internship.

The third sector is not counted amongst current regulations – but MPs and media organisations are. It would be interesting to see if they take note of these developments. I suspect they won’t.

Watch this space. An announcement is expected next week.

It almost brought me to tears

I would like to start by saying that I bare no ill will towards the political think tank I worked for or any of its staff, they were all doing the best they could in difficult funding circumstances and I do believe they had a genuine concern for their interns’ wellbeing. However, there needs to be a debate over internship practice because it has a big impact on working practices in the UK’s professional sector.

When I applied for the internship I already had my reservations; it was unpaid work with limited travelling expenses (I just managed to creep in under their limit), no lunch expenses and with full-time working hours. In many ways I was lucky, my parents were both able and willing to subsidise me and I lived within commuting distance of London (although, as I was to discover, train networks meant this journey would take more than four hours out of my day – my fault, but the London-centric nature of this sector is a real concern).

As it was to turn out my internship was no tea-making and photo-copying job, I had in effect been hired to replace a full-time research assistant who had left the month before due to a loss of research funding. To make matters worse my supervisor, who as the organisation’s director, was frequently unavailable and disappeared off for a significant chunk of my internship leaving me essentially to my own devices. Without effective supervision the quantity of work the task entailed shot up, so on top of the four hour commute and eight hour working day I was working for a few hours when I got home as well just to get my projects done. It was a learning curve and I probably came out stronger in the end but for months all the stress and exhaustion really made an impact on my mental – and physical – health.

Continue reading ‘It almost brought me to tears’

Media interest in interns and Internships

Two bits of national press this week. Firstly, the BBC featured the issue of parliamentary internships on BBC Radio Five live and simultaneously on the BBC website. And today the Guardian have included an interview with my colleague Rosy in the Work section. Interestingly the journalist who wrote the article, Huma Qureshi, is an ex-intern herself, and got her job at the Guardian/Observer after a stint of unpaid work! The message is clear: it can happen!

An entirely positive internship – despite being broke for the duration of it!

One of the modules of my MBA required me to do an internship. As a materialistic female with dreams of free cosmetics and the prospect of wearing shoulderpads and stillettoes when I finally graduated, I asked to be put forward for a marketing department in one of our better known, international cosmetic companies. The university, however, suggested I try a parliamentary internship and, to my horror, I was accepted by an MP. I spent two days a week for three months following a charismatic MP around the Westminster Village, watching him get interviewed, watching him debate and meeting some remarkable people, including Secretaries of State. I drank subsidised beer, learned about politics (of which I had previously known nothing) and made some lifelong friendships. On graduation, the MP offered me another internship within one of the organisations he chaired so that I would be able to look for a job “from a job”. As the interviews began, a paid job became available within this not for profit organisation and I spent over three years working there. I forgot about money and make-up, learned how to run an actual company, continued to network with Parliamentarians and industry leaders who valued my position and developed an interest in sustainability. I’ll never make millions, but my internship has put me firmly on the path of something interesting and with a strong network of my own. A number of us who began our careers in this company have created an alumni of interns and a vast number have gone on to great things, including a career in politics. I think an internship is great if you have no idea what you want, or are trying to break into a tough industry. They are a little unfair, I appreciate, and few can afford to be unpaid, but if you are able, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

An entirely positive experience – despite being broke for the duration of it!

Intern Interview #1

We are unleashing a new feature on the website: the Interns Anonymous interview. Armed with a dictaphone and 10 minutes of spare time, we are interviewing past and present interns about their internship experiences. We kick off with an ex-headhunter who wanted a career-change in her mid-twenties. She turned to internships to get into the charity sector.  

IA: Where does this story start?

I chose to have a career change earlier this year. I was advised that the best way to get into other organisations – having worked for four years but with no actual qualification to show for it – was to do internships…I was in a unique position because being an headhunter, they were all with my clients.

IA: So they weren’t advertised?

No, none of them were advertised, I just knew somebody there and I normally worked with the person I knew, in their team

Continue reading ‘Intern Interview #1′

Perseverance

Having graduated with two masters from some of the most prestigious institutions in the world, I was naïve; I expected I could go straight into employment. But that idea turned out to be a metaphorical house built on sand. Instead I quickly understood I needed to do internships.

My first internship was very hard to come by, it took a lot of time effort and applications, but the thing I found most helpful was being creative. For example when I watched the television I would have a pen and a piece of appear beside me, and whenever I seen an organization appear on the television I would like to intern with, I would write their names down and cold apply later on. This tactic actually helped me get my first internship.

The problem with my first internship was I lived almost at the opposite end of the country from even the interview, so I had to catch a plane flight on my own expense to just go to the interview. I was fortunate and the think tank accepted me and there pay was very good for an internship, it was two hundred pounds a week, this helped me a lot. But for me the worry remind of getting housing, now I was very lucky as I had long lost relatives that lived in the very north of the city I was interning in, but nonetheless this area was cheap enough that I could of rented even if I didn’t have relatives.

The internship itself was very good, the staff treated me with a lot of respect, the boss of the think tank interacted with me on a very regular basis, and the work load was continuous which I very much appreciated. I couldn’t sing the praises of the people there enough. But what I have learned is this for my internship with this think tank what I put in I got out, so if I turned up at 7.30 in the morning and worked through to 7 at night  the staff recognized this and treated me with more respect. If I could bring new understanding, arguments and knowledge to the table they included me in more discussion. Lastly because they were very good to me they helped me network in a area of work that is notoriously hard to break into(and the networking has lead directly to my internship I am doing right now). I worked very hard from them and they rewarded me in return.

Continue reading ‘Perseverance’

Why public schools are likely to rule in 2010

Much talk at the moment of private schools and politics. With a huge proportion of David Cameron’s shadow cabinet old Etonians and half of the ‘A list’ independently educated, the social make-up of the next Government is likely to be very different (providing the Tories win).

So this got us thinking: is the cult of the intern a middle class/public school phenomena? What about a straw poll for readers of the site? Are you an intern and from a private school?

The Class of 2010 is a new report based on work by academics from Plymouth University. Their research suggests that relative to 1997, the number of new MPs from comprehensive schools will fall from 46% to about 30%.

The report’s authors talk about “a massive shift over the last 12 years towards the private and independent sector”, and also note that the share of new Labour MPs from private school backgrounds may double, from 7% in 1997 to 14%.

Continue reading ‘Why public schools are likely to rule in 2010′

Guardian Diary of an Intern

I almost didn’t post this up. It’s just that dull. The trouble is the Guardian is not going to publish a desensitized account of a journalism internship. The fact that you have begged for months to get a place, only to realise it probably wont get you anywhere in the long run. Almost as soon as I graduated I got a month at a national– thinking this was my ticket to any number of entry-level jobs. What an idiot.

The most helpful hacks – rather than just rebuffing my eagerness – told me to do an expensive post-grad course and then concentrate on getting more unpaid work. Somehow I didn’t expect it to be that hard. Uni career services should really spend more time explaining how tough reality is. Anyway, rant over. Here is the Guardian’s diary of an intern…

Continue reading ‘Guardian Diary of an Intern’

Playing it cool

As an intern on a national newspaper I often have to pinch myself when that magical beep allows me through the security gates every morning, just being in the building is enough to make the experience worthwhile most of the time. Despite this though, it is often very tough. When the initial buzz of being party to an industry you’ve spent so long daydreaming about wears off, the reality of working long hours for no money can be extremely difficult – both mentally and physically.

One of the hardest parts of being an intern with no salary is getting up early and getting home late, spending long hours completing tasks which are essential to the running of your section all the while knowing that you’re not being paid for your efforts – a knowledge that leaves me feeling demoralised and demotivated at the end of a long week. Although my editor is supportive and often allows me opportunities to write and gather content for the section, when the office gets busy lines get easily blurred and it becomes very easy for employers to forget an intern is there to gain experience, not make cups of tea and deliver scripts around the building. What becomes so ultimately heart-breaking about the entire intern experience is the knowledge that when my time is up here, i’ll be just the latest in a long line of interns who’ve gone before me, despite how much I impress.

tightrope

Internships are a balancing act

Which leads me to the-near impossible balancing act that interns know only too well -the fine line between appearing enthusiastic, dedicated and available and being dubbed the irritating, over-cheerful suck up, the latter of which ought to be avoided at all costs. Even after you master the art of making an impression while staying out of the way, there remains the simple fact that no matter how hard you try, chances of getting a job are pretty much non-existent, as every editor/reporter/cafe attendant will tell you.


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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