Archive for April, 2010

Student confronts Clegg over his ridiculous internships plans

See the full exchange here and read about the Lib Dem plans here.

NB: We should point out that however ridiculous Nick Clegg’s plans are, Brown and Cameron are no better. No party is really addressing this issue.

Clean the Fridge

I graduated last summer and I want to be a features journalist on a mag. I didn’t know this straight away so I did work experience in marketing, online advertising and PR – hating them all. The online advertising agency was advertised on the Graduate Talent Pool, when I showed up it was a dusty little office above a SPA offy – this was in winter and it didn’t even have radiators! It paid expenses, I’ll give them that much. Then the PR agency was in a small office in Covent Garden, with four people and an office dog. All I did was send outs and returns, which was not how the internship was advertised, so I quit on the Friday as I wasn’t benefitting from it at all, and they tried to not give me my expenses as I hadn’t given them enough notice of my leaving and had ‘left them in the lurch’.  Whilst I was there they actually asked me to clean the fridge…thankfully that was the Friday, and I never went back. 

So then I was decided on journalism, and headed for the big titles. After hundreds of CVs being sent out I landed placements in five prestigious titles. I’ve learnt that entry-level editorial positions go to the intern that is there at the time when the current editorial assistant leaves/gets promoted. However most magazines have interns booked in on a monthly basis sometimes years in advance, so remaining in one place as the intern is virtually impossible. Therefore I’ve been ‘mag-hopping’ for months, and am no closer to that elusive Editorial Assistant position.

The public needs to be made aware of the way companies are using their interns as free labour. Just today I was offered a 3-month placement with a tabloid newspaper following my application for editorial work experience. The placement was an administration position, NEXT TO the news desk – so “hopefully you may get the chance to write something”, and paid £5 a day “to cover expenses”. Unless I lived in zone 1, which no graduate does, this would never cover my expenses. Anyway, I’m pretty much looking into getting a random job outside of journalism now as the fight to get into it is so so tough, and you need a thriving bank account to support you while you pursue it!

This Is Just To Say

We love this poem by ‘always an intern’ and would like to share with all of you…let us know if you’ve ever done the same:

This is Just to Say

I have spat
in the tea
which you asked me
to make

and which
you were probably
by now

Forgive me
it was delightful
so hot
and so tempting

Fashion in a cupboard

I have a story from working on a newspaper supplement…

It was a national newspaper and the first thing that struck me was that they couldn’t cover my travel costs, so not only was I working 10-5 for free, I was actually making a loss.

I was working in a fashion cupboard. I heard from another intern working there that the job we were doing actually used to be a paid position and was therefore much more efficiently run. With little guidance I was expected to just ‘get on with it’ in a windowless and people-less room and with little to no help from the people I worked for.

Clothes that I had never seen and were ordered in before I arrived were lost, but did they try to help me? Of course not, I was left to deal with the problem and fob off some PR company.

Whilst most of the people working there were pleasant one woman had a holier than thou attitude and got annoyed with me for putting something in the wrong place despite the fact that the bossier, know-it-all intern had told me to do it. I knew she was annoyed by her monotone ‘that’s…quite…annoying…’ comment.

I can also echo another piece on your website about fashion people claiming to be overworked. I find they hardly do anything. I can’t imagine how they would cope in the real world where they would be overseen by a boss who might put a stop to their frequent mundane chit chat and cigarette breaks. You chose 10 pairs of shoes to be photographed against a blank screen by someone else? I can think of nothing less stress inducing.

Crazy crazy shoes

Still waiting

Firstly I would like to say it is brilliant that you are highlighting this issue. I graduated in 2008 and since then have had no solid offer of a permanent full time job.

So far I have done FIVE internships – in which none of them have led to a full time job. However on the upside I was fortunate enough to be paid £6.00 an hour to work. However I didn’t get my travel expenses paid, sick pay or overtime. My travel expenses came to around £200 a month which ate up half my wage anyway.

Continue reading ‘Still waiting’

From the Observer.. Graduates: a problem in four parts

Tanya de Grunwald has written a great article:

Have you noticed how swiftly online discussion about the UK’s “graduate problem” descends into a slanging match, even on civilised websites like this one? Mention “Mickey Mouse degrees” and watch students, lecturers and employers scratch each other’s eyes out. Everyone gets worked up but nothing is ever worked out. Journalists seem no clearer on the true cause of the problem they’re reporting. It’s the surge in the number of graduates. No, it’s rising tuition fees. Or the recession. Or unpaid internships. Or that we have somehow raised an entire generation of arrogant, grabby young things who don’t know the value of a day’s work. Er, what was the question again?

Her argument is thus:

  • Students think of univeristy as an investment to get them a job
  • Universities see themselves as facilitators of academic study
  • Employers think university should equip people with key skills to do jobs (“They refuse to hire candidates who aren’t work-ready, hence the unpaid internships.”)

And finally…

  • Politicians see the grand picture of an educated workforce equalling a strong economy.

She concludes:

In my opinion, students should take a more active role in determining their future – and employers should return to hiring graduates on potential rather than experience. Universities should stop running degrees they know have no real value – and completely overhaul their careers advice services. Politicians should support payment for internships and keep tuition fees as low as possible until we can all promise school pupils that yes, going to university is definitely a good idea. With a fresh batch of 470,000 students set to finish their undergraduate studies this summer and a further 205,000 completing postgraduate courses, we have no time to lose.

We couldn’t agree more.

NB: She also runs a great website full of graduate career advice. Check it out here.

Nick Clegg internship madness

Over at The Student Room election sensation Nick Clegg has been talking about internships. He thinks interns need to be valued, with 800,000 placements paying £55 a week to be created by a Lib Dem government. Pity the last intern position he advertised for was unpaid.

Also the maths: 800,000 internships at £55 a week for 3 months by the end of 2010

800,000 X £55 X 12 weeks = £528,000,000 or HALF A BILLION on internships that provide no guarantee of a job? Madness.

Another politician using internships as a buzzword for getting people back to work without understanding the faintest thing about them.

He was asked:

How do you plan to respond to the growing prevalence of unpaid internships, including parliamentary internships? What is your view on unpaid internships, placements and work experience in relation to the law and to National Minimum Wage rules? How will you ensure that internships are open to all, rather than to those who are in a position to work for free?

A very good question!

Nick Clegg’s answer:

You’re right, there are now a lot of interns working very hard and getting paid little or nothing for it. The danger is ending up in a situation where internships are exclusive to those young people whose parents can afford to help them. Internships can be an amazing way of getting a flavour for a possible career when you’re young and that option should be open to as many young people as possible. I know myself how fantastic that experience can be – I got to intern in New York, working on a magazine called ‘The Nation’ for Christopher Hitchens. Opening up the opportunity to intern to more people is important to my party, and we have a plan to create 800,000 internships in our first year in office, helping all the young people now struggling to find work. We’ve made sure that those places will be paid at £55 a week – enough to cover basic costs, and more than you get collecting Job Seekers’ Allowance.

Quite how you can afford to live in London – let alone pay rent – on £55 a week is beyond me. That’s about as much as the average internship gives in travel and lunch money. Clegg of course recounts his own internship with the hitch. I wonder how he afforded to pay rent in New York for 3 months? What interns really want, and what they are legally entitled to is National Minimum Wage. Something Nick Clegg didn’t even give his own interns.

Calling all Lawyers

This flyer just arrived in my inbox. A leading legal and human rights organisation advertising for unpaid interns. Surely lawyers can afford to pay minimum wage!

This site doesn’t hear enough from lawyers doing internships. If you know a Law intern or have been one yourself PLEASE GET IN TOUCH!

It’s Grim Up North

Opera North is offering a Chorus and Orchestra Internship working within the Music Department of England’s only national opera company based in the North, for up to 11 months.

Working alongside the Chorus and Orchestra Managers, the successful applicant will provide administrative support with the opportunity to take responsibility for set projects.

Candidates must be computer literate and able to carry out varied administrative tasks with a good eye for detail. This is the ideal opportunity for anyone looking to pursue a career within arts administration.

This position is voluntary but lunch and travel expenses will be paid.

One of our readers – who wants to get into arts administration is aghast.

I would like to anonymously highlight this internship at Opera North, which came to my attention because the organisation specifically targeted postgraduate students.

It worries me greatly that such prestigious organisations think it is somehow acceptable to offer this sort of unpaid work to talented postgraduates looking to progress in arts administration. It is one thing to offer part time voluntary opportunities, or low-paid full-time work, but this full-time voluntary position guarantees that only certain types of people will be able to access this position and it completely undermines all the good work done by the national minimum wage. Talented graduates have so much to give, why are some members of staff being paid over £30k when these hard-working ‘volunteers’ will not be paid anything?

Interns Anonymous couldn’t agree more.

This will do nothing to dispel the feeling that Opera is an elitist pursuit. Who but the most privileged could afford to work a full time job without pay for 11 months? Opera North should have a lot of explaining to do.

PR lets the side down again


I thought I’d share some of my experiences with you lot…

Since graduating from a red brick uni in 2009, I have done 3 separate internships, none of which have led me to a job. I was hoping to get into the Art PR world. I am not anymore.

One of the internships was great – I was working on a broadcasting event where I was told to only work hours I could manage around part time work. I was given responsibility and was clearly a valued member of a team. In addition, my travel expenses were repaid and although I was struggling for money, as I had to cut my working hours to part time (I was also working in a call centre) I was still able to pay rent and it was definitely worth it. 

Internship number 2 was very different…

Continue reading ‘PR lets the side down again’

An uninspiring internship?

We have been critical in the past of companies like Intern Star who aim to match companies with cheap graduate labour, and make a profit as well.

Inspiring Interns is another such company – which boasts on their website of having 10+ interns working for them at any one time.

A week or so ago we received an account of an internship with them which read more like an advert. We don’t run this site to give free publicity to companies we don’t agree with, so in the interests of fairness we asked another ex-intern to write a rebuttal. Both accounts are below, and you can make up your own minds…

I am currently completing a placement at graduate internship agency called Inspiring Interns. And it’s a company that lives up to its name.

I have found that an ABB A-levels, a 2:1 from a red brick uni and a MA leaves me close, yet so far from an elusive full-time ‘graduate’ job. To my frustration even ‘graduate entry level’ jobs require experience of some sort.

Graduates are faced with a catch 22 situation. Without a job, you can’t get any experience, but without experience you can’t get a job. That’s where Inspiring Interns comes in.

They hook you up with a company who will take you on and train you. The company will pay for your travel and lunch expenses, which many scream is exploitation, but I think is the lucky break that most graduates desperately need. And it’s one of the few offers open to them. Moreover, the majority of Inspiring’s internships lead to paid, full-time roles.

After many a day looking for jobs online, I opted to work for free at Inspiring Interns because I wanted to get out of my house, and proactively do something to get a job.

I’m very lucky. I’m not on the dole. Because if I was, I wouldn’t be allowed to take up this opportunity. I’m not working in Mc Whatever to pay the rent, because I live at home. To put it simply, I’m relying on my parents. But it’s the only way I can move my life forwards.

Most people wait for lucky breaks. I went to Inspiring Interns because they bring them to you.

Across the world, millions of graduates, are sitting at home waiting for a break. They are Not in Education, Employment or Training. Having been told my parents, teachers and politicians, throughout my life that an education will get you ahead, many young people are sat at home disillusioned and depressed, or working in a McDead-end job wondering why on earth they tried so hard at getting ahead in the first place. Luckily with Inspiring Interns, I no longer need to be a NEET.

And the rebuttal:

As a recent intern with friends currently looking for internships, I have recently been made aware of an organisation called Inspiring Interns which proclaims itself as where ‘great interns meet great companies’.

It also proudly boasts that they should know about interns as they ‘typically have 10+ at a time’.

The problem with this marketing spiel is that Inspiring Interns is actually exploiting young people in order to make a quick buck in the recession. You see, none of the interns on their books seem to be paid.

Under their costs section, it details how Inspiring Interns gets £500 per month for arranging the internship – while the intern only receives £220 at most for lunch and travel expenses.

Now, I’m no expert in the legal ramifications of what this organisation does, but this looks to be clearly in breach of the National Minimum Wage Act 1998 (NMWA). By also lining up companies to take interns on which might conflict with the NMWA, Inspiring Interns doesn’t seem to be letting these companies know that they might be breaking the law by offering these internships.

On top of the very dubious work of Inspiring Interns in relation to the NMWA, the company also benefits from using the government’s very own Graduate Talent Pool to advertise these clearly exploitative positions which only a select few can afford. This is somewhat at odds with the whole ‘Backing Young Britain’ campaign the government has been running in recent months…

Oh, and BT – who recently axed their Graduate scheme – awarded Inspiring Interns a trophy for ‘Essence of the Entrepreneur’. An AWARD?! This shows how out of touch BT clearly are if they are handing out awards to people and organisations who are using the national problem of youth unemployment during the recession to make money out of skirting round the NMWA.

I hope that one day soon organisations like Inspiring Interns are not accepted by either interns looking for an internship or organisations who want to commit to offering young people an opportunity which doesn’t involve exploiting them.

Tell us what you think…

Debate about Internships in the Media

You can now check out BECTU’s debate about internships and unpaid work over at their YouTube channel. Part One below.

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.


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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