Interns Anonymous catches five minutes with another ex-intern in our continuing series of interviews. This time, we explore internships in conservation.
Interns Anonymous: You interned in the third sector. Tell me a little about it:
********: Well I was at a conservation charity for three months, and it was called an internship. It was basically an admin position.
Interns Anonymous: What did you do?
********: Filing, archiving files, moving them from paper to a computer and… that’s about it.
Interns Anonymous: What hours did you work?
********: 9 to 5, part-time, for three months.
Interns Anonymous: Did you feel like you got much out of this experience?
********: Well, I learned how to do admin. I know how to do work. I didn’t gain any skills, or qualifications which would help me get paid work in conservation.
Interns Anonymous: Was it sold to you as experience that would lead onto a paid position?
********: Definitely. Yes. That’s what they said. It will be valuable experience for charity or conservation work.
Interns Anonymous: So there were no benefits to it? Not even in your subsequent search for a paid role?
********: Well, I can put it on my CV. I am now temping. But it would not have helped me on any other job.
Interns Anonymous: Would you recommend the experience?
********: If they had no experience at all and just wanted a summer doing something then yes. I didn’t even get a reference from them, because when my current temp agency contacted them they didn’t reply.
Interns Anonymous: What about your subsequent search for jobs in the third sector?
********: Well, they are so competitive. And they hardly come up. For example I applied for an ecology internship. For 3 months. Unpaid. And the minimum requirement was an MSC. And this is to work for free for 3 months! Then I applied for an internship with an orchestra. Which was basically orchestral admin. They wanted ‘experience’ for an unpaid internship. You couldn’t get the position without other experience. This is just crying out that this is a job and they don’t want to pay people.
Interns Anonymous: How did you support yourself during your unpaid work?
********: I still had my student loan. What was most annoying was that the job I was doing came up paid just after I left. And they didn’t even short-list me. It was a joke.
Interns Anonymous: So on that note… what would your advice be to someone trying to get into the conservation sector?
********: Probably that qualifications are overrated. Doing the practical work, which you can do without any qualifications is a way in. Going to university to study theory is a waste of time because they will always choose someone with the practical experience first.