Hey intern, get me a coffee and stop whingeing

An interesting article in the Observer this morning by Barbara Ellen

Does anyone care, I mean really care, about interns? They’ve been complaining recently about being exploited, underpaid (if paid at all), and generally treated as despised dogsbodies.

There is even a website called Interns Anonymous, full of interns complaining about being exploited, underpaid, treated as dogsbodies, etc. On IA, some of the whinges are so lengthy and self-pitying one can’t help but wonder if they might have got on a little better if they’d poured all that energy into the internship.

Of course we are delighted that debate about internships has been highlighted in the national press once again! Read the full article here.

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7 Responses to “Hey intern, get me a coffee and stop whingeing”

  1. 1 Paul Sagar 02/28/2010 at 6:15 pm

    Oh, Alex, give me about half an hour and a full refutation of this insuferable woman and her inability to reason is coming your way…

  2. 2 Paul Sagar 02/28/2010 at 6:50 pm



    feel more than free to cross-post to the IA blog.


  3. 3 Mark Watson 02/28/2010 at 7:04 pm

    Well it’s a desperate attempt to get the Observer to limp off the news stands (which it usually sticks firmly to) by being – hey – controversial but a rather transparently and unimaginatively written performance all round.

    Still, as you say, it puts the issue into the public eye again, and this excellent site!

  4. 4 London Fashion Intern 03/01/2010 at 8:02 am

    I don’t think she read your blog, or if she did she entirely misread your goal.
    Her article is so obviously done based on the BBC report alone, without any further research.

  5. 5 Matt 03/02/2010 at 12:11 pm

    This lady is obviously just trying to keep hold of a job the Observer’s big sister The Guardian is trying to cut, like most of its other once loved, now lost, supplements. A poorly ignorant whinge from a writer who is more than happy being middle class and therefore away from the financial problems she is spectating on. More than this though she doesn’t care if the divisions in class that are present in the professional (and specifically in my experience Arts) industries are not tackled as this blog and the Arts Group seeks to do. Indeed she is actively upholding those divisions.

  6. 6 Anon 03/14/2010 at 8:18 am

    A few years ago I was in a worse position than “Intern” – I was put on a “Modern Apprenticeship” as a result of my unemployment and age.

    Not being academically gifted (but not to say lacking intellectually) I do not have any qualifications higher than “A-Level” (Maths, Physics if you’re wondering), but still wanting a technical job, I entered IT.

    I was nieve for the first few months about my situation, wondering when I would get paid more than £2/hr for the work I was doing (I was the only techie looking after 73 employees IT systems, and the then-latest server operating, e-mail and database systems).

    Ignorance was initially bliss as I completed a professional qualification I had started before working, and had started to study towards another.

    After around 8 or 9 months, I started to become aware that no-one had mentioned a pay rise. I knew £2/hr was less than minimum wage, but wasn’t concerned at first as I had been told there was a “probationary period”.

    I approached my then manager and asked him about my pay. He told me that it would be reviewed at the end of the year. Given this time was just 3 months away, I waited.

    The review came and went, and no rise was forthcoming. At this point I started to get mildly upset at the situation, so started doing research into exactly what it was I was doing.

    It turned out that the “Modern Apprenticeship” scheme was aimed at 18-24 years olds without *any* qualifications “get experience and a qualification whilst working”. I also found out that such positions are not subject to the NMW legislation, and not only that, but classed as full-time employment for benefits, taxes, etc…

    In other words, I was being screwed-over and there was little I could do.

    After I discovered the true nature of why I was there (to reduce the unemployment figure!) I started making noises to my employer that I was unhappy with the salary they were paying me for the work I was doing. Worse, the “qualification” (NVQ Level 4) I was supposed to be studying was so simplistic as to be laughable.

    Things started to get serious when my employer started making moves towards constructive dismissal. They couldn’t sake me – I was too good at what I did. After taking legal advice, I left.

    It was the best thing to ever happen to me. In short 18 months I had been working there I learned more about business and work than if I had a straight-forward job that hadn’t made me examine what was going on.

    I now run a successful company specializing in IT security and software development.

    The point of all this is that this kind of exploitation takes more forms than simply “intern”. I questioned at the time just how many other young people were out there, in similar situations. I guess we are starting to find out the true extent of cheap labour within the UK.

    It is all very well Barbara sitting in her tower mocking the world, but it is the end of low experience/younger members of the work-force doing the hard work for little or no remuneration.

    In my case, the amount I earned left me with just £50 at the end of the month after I had traveled to/from work.

    At the very least, people need to earn a salary that enables them to pay their own way without having to rely on others, regardless of their experience. If companies are unable or unwilling to pay, they shouldn’t be hiring.

    Barbara completely missed the point. I did not expect to walk into a job that paid £150,000/year, but equally I did not expect to work for a company with multi-million pound turnover, being unable to afford anywhere to live afterward. No-one else should either, and it is time it ended!

  7. 7 Zoe 02/28/2011 at 1:22 am

    The Observer is one of the most elitist newspapers and has a reputation for employing people who know someone who already works there. I wonder how she got her job? Has she ever had to work unpaid in her life?

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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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