Archive for January, 2010

SURVEY UPDATE: 86 Parliamentary Interns have taken part so far!

The Jury is still out- some people have obviously had great experiences but some have developed a long lasting aversion to the political world…is it just about personality? Or do some MPs take the humiliation just that bit too far? We have included all previously collected results along with 23 extra responses.

Summary

-          55% of unpaid interns in Westminster are graduate job seekers

-          25% carry out tasks they are not comfortable with (but this can be a positive thing)

-          Only 36% had all their expenses covered.

-          60% developed new skills (but many regretted the money they had spent on this)

-          And the most positive thing- 84% believe the internship boosted their job prospects…although some ended up feeling put off:  

‘It’s hard to tell. Certainly, if I carried on within politics it might do. But having paid a couple of hundred pounds a month to go in to work and eat I am now cold towards politics as a career.’

Full results below.

Continue reading ‘SURVEY UPDATE: 86 Parliamentary Interns have taken part so far!’

Beyond Parody: Interning in the Fashion World

In our second interview with an ex-Intern, Interns Anonymous caught up with someone who had a behind the scenes look at the fashion world.  She found that working at a glamorous magazine actually wasn’t that glamorous.

Interns Anonymous: Tell me about your internship. What kind of magazine was it?

*****:  I worked for a fashion magazine. I was in the beauty department, working alongside the beauty editor and her assistant. It was unpaid…

Interns Anonymous: Did it live up to the stereotype of the fashion world?

*****:  Emphatically yes. But in different ways. It’s not as glamorous as you would think. But the people are almost like a parody of themselves. I don’t think they are very well paid, but I think they have very wealthy parents.

Continue reading ‘Beyond Parody: Interning in the Fashion World’

Coming back to haunt a newspaper near you

Spotted in the Telegraph by an eagle-eyed Dina Rickman (Dina – if you read this please write to us with your own intern experiences!) is a horrible article by journalist Celia Walden. She describes a week of torture dished out to her ‘whipping boy’ work experience-r… retribution, it seems, for her own work placements.

Once Ed had finished alphabetising a decade’s worth of business cards for me, booked reservations at the Ivy (posing as my PA) and spent an afternoon scouring London for a Tintin desk diary (A5, Ed, not A4 – back out you go, my boy), a co-worker took him home to clean out her bins.

I’m tempted to write this off as payback for the years of humiliation I endured at the hands of men during my salad days, but I suspect it’s just more fun abusing a boy – something about that Estella/Pip dynamic, perhaps.

Still, my memories of work placements aren’t exactly edifying. There was that stint on a TV listings magazine, where the boys would routinely order me to stand up on a chair and tweak the aerial. “A bit more to the left,” they’d cry out. “Nope – to the right. Now back to the left.” This would go on for some time, until one day the editor walked in on a particularly prolonged session, ordered me down from the chair and delivered a hushed rebuke – from which the only words I could make out were “Harassment Act”.

Does Ed deserve this? Is it all part of the learning curve? Or does Celia deserve a slap in the face?

Slave Labour

We have come across a great Channel 4 News clip from a couple of years ago. It’s about a young film maker called Danny Dewsbury who was exploited by the Labour Party. He spent a week travelling around the country filming cabinet ministers but wasn’t paid a penny. He wasn’t learning or shadowing – and what makes it more ironic is how proud the ministers he filmed were of the Minimum Wage.

Tessa Jowell, in one interview with him, even has a pop at “scams” whereby young people are used as “cheap labour”.

Sick of the Sunday Times

I moved back to London from my hometown last January, in a bid to pursue a budding career in journalism. I’d worked on a local paper with a decent salary and was pretty sure I could write myself out of any tight spot; so I set about lining up work experience and internships to give myself an edge.

I managed, through a friend, to get 2 weeks’ placement on the Sunday Times News Review. I arrived bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on the Monday morning, not expecting to be given the most fascinating jobs in the world, but hoping that if I proved myself willing then I might make some useful contacts.

An ostensibly friendly woman showed me to my desk from the lobby and said somebody would be with me shortly. I waited an hour for my “boss” to turn up, who simply said to me, “do you know what you’re supposed to be doing?” When I replied that no, I had no idea what was in store for me, she sighed and set me about making lists of the day’s news stories published in all the day’s papers. She didn’t tell me how long the list was supposed to be, or give me any examples; she just barked out a simple instruction and vanished. For the rest of the week, she communicated with me only through one-sentence emails.

Continue reading ‘Sick of the Sunday Times’

Nick Clegg announces youth jobs pledge

One of his pledges concerns internships:


We will support young people while they get valuable work experience by paying anyone undertaking an internship a ‘training allowance’ of £55 a week (£5 more than JSA). This will help employers who want to offer young people work experience but cannot afford to pay them. We envisage that young people will do this for up to 3 months and receipt of the allowance will be dependent on attendance.

Is this the answer? Or another politician using ‘internships’ as a vote-winner without really knowing anything about them. I know many interns who already get £55 a week in expenses. What they really want is National Minimum Wage.

Government to create National Internship Database

Responding to middle class fears that their children are being shut out from many professions (Law, Finance, Accountancy, the Media etc), the government has announced the creation of a National Internship Database (NID) – a one-stop-shop for every unemployed graduate’s needs.

Quite where this differs from previous announcements about a national internship scheme is anyone’s guess, and I am sure none of the work placements proposed have taken into account the problems we have mentioned on this site.

  • How does creating a national database of internships solve the problem that most will be located in London and therefore only open to those who live there already or can afford to live there for months without pay?
  • Does this policy address the fact that most internships break current employment laws in that they don’t pay NMW?
  • If NMW isn’t paid… how are prospective interns going to afford these placements? Financed by a bankrupt state? Unlikely. I suspect they will follow the Milburn suggestion of making loans available for graduates. But with no guarantee of a job at the end of it, and not even an assurance of proper training, would this be £2000 well spent?

“Internship” – formally a buzzword for employers to justify cutting an entry-level position, now the inspiration for a policy dreamt up by clueless politicians. But that’s just my opinion.

Are internships the answer to our problems?

Work experience or work exploitation?

A common theme in the experiences featured on this website is the tension between offering opportunities to young people and exploiting them.

The University of Westminster has waded into this debate, by publishing a survey showing the vast majority of university students in London feel exploited during their work experience placements.  

The headline figures are striking.

  • 71% of students said they felt unfulfilled by their work experience placements. Common tasks cited were filing, scanning, photocopying, answering telephones, and making tea.
  • 60% of those interviewed said that their work experience was not beneficial in any way. 
  • 90% of those surveyed had worked for free, and of those, 77% were not compensated for their expenses.

Hardly indicative of a system that equips young people with the experience needed to get jobs in a recession.  One student commented, “I have done several placements, all have been unpaid. Of these placements, two promised to reimburse my expenses- one took 2 months to fulfil this and the other never returned my calls after promising £5 per day for my full-time placement.”

Despite the fact that this was probably in clear breach of the NMW regulations, tardiness in paying meager expenses is terrible. Even if you work for free, you deserve to be treated with respect.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T (worst internship ever)

Most of the posts on the site talk about internships based in the UK- here’s one from a graphic design graduate who spent a summer working for a web design company in Philadelphia, U.S.A, land of the free (labour):

I had an internship last summer at a web design company. I am a graphic designer who has graduated college but took on an unpaid internship to learn more about the industry and learn about web design. I made all of this clear in the interview. My “boss” every day treated me with no respect. Yelled at me when I didn’t understand things and asked for help. To the extent that one time I asked for assistance on something I didn’t understand and he laughed at me and said “Jesus Christ you think you’re ever gonna learn about web design?” in front of the whole office. Furthermore, I asked for assistance on a new website and in front of the whole office he yelled at me “THIS COMES UNDER THE CATEGORY OF FIGURE IT OUT YOURSELF!” Figure it out myself? I’m an unpaid intern trying to learn from industry pros (although it’s hard for me to say he was anything close to professional). This should come under the category of help out your unpaid intern who’s doing your work for free. My “boss” took every opportunity to embarrass me in front of the office. By the internship’s end, he looked at my portfolio site where I claimed that I helped out on various projects at the internship and stated exactly my extent in the project. He then embarrassed me in front of the whole office yelling “Why the hell are you going to take credit for someone else’s work?” What the hell???? I spent all summer working on those projects and for me to state that I assisted on the projects is worthy of spilling out to the office that I’m taking credit for other people’s work? Even though I receive ZERO mention on their website for the graphic design and coding I’ve done for their projects. The featured projects on their site are all projects I worked on! Needless to say, after those outbursts I quit…

and I’ve never quit anything in my life. It would have been nice to be a little bit appreciated. I was never offered a lunch on them. I was never invited to company functions unless I had to videotape something for them. I had a really crappy experience there and tell everyone in the area that they’re a bunch of A-Holes, with the exception of the lower level people. Sorry to make this so long, but my experience has really frustrated me- that I worked a whole summer for free as a college graduate doing work that any designer would be paid at least $20/hr to do, while a 15 year old at McDonalds is doing the most unskilled labor and being paid more than I was.

Maccy Ds

Benevolent corporates

A London Bias?

One of the most frequent criticisms of internships is their location. If you want internships in journalism, the media, politics and the third-sector, you would be hard pushed to find them outside of London.

This graph, from the illuminating Milburn report, highlights some of those sectors not often considered.

Does the fact that 90% of law internships are found in London reveal a geographical bias? Or that law firms in Leeds, for example, have yet to develop an internship culture?

The Banking and Finance stats are interesting – we are actively looking for finance interns to tell us what they get up to! I would have assumed that the majority of those internships would be found in the City. IT and Engineering – well – they offer some comfort to those not living in our capital.

We will soon be starting a comprehensive survey for all our readers to take. Location will be one factor we are looking at. Watch this space.

Mayfair intern

I came across your website since having some serious issues at my current work place. It helps to let it out!

After graduating in July 2008, I had already prepared some work experience for the end of the month in a very prestigious and independent shop in the heart of Mayfair (family connections).

The first month flew by as I put all my effort into being delightful and eager, with the chance that my hard-work could land myself a job. I managed to part-succeed, gaining a great relationship with my two bosses. So much so, they wanted me their full time.

As time went on, my honeymoon with London started to take its toll and after 3 months of unpaid work I was exhausted, both mentally and physically. The money issue also became a big problem. My parents were funding me to live with the hope of great things and it took all my courage to ask for a little bit of help from my boss’s. It was November at this point and my parents were struggling. I asked whether I could have a little bit of money for travel expenses or to work three days a week to try and get a paid part-time job.

Continue reading ‘Mayfair intern’


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.

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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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