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…
It was at an Art PR company and I was really excited to have got it seeing as I thought it was in the field I wanted to work in. It was full time for 2 months, meaning I had to quit my job to do it but I was prepared to use any savings and borrow money from family if I needed to. I was living about an hour outside of London (not with my parents who live out in the country) and the daily commute took 2 hours each way once I had crossed London in rush hour.
Once I arrived, it became clear that I was the most recent in a long line of interns. The company (which was very small, only 3 employees and the director) hired a new one every 2 months after the last one finished. I was clearly there because they were too cheap to pay for a full time assistant. The other members of staff were obviously bored with the endless graduates and did not want to make any effort to give me advice, help me with any career information or make me feel at all welcome.
My duties included: picking up the Director’s dry cleaning, buying birthday presents for her friends, posting unwanted items of clothing back to shops, booking ice skating sessions for her children, tidying the stationary drawer…I was made to feel completely worthless and it was just expected that I would be happy to do all these things because the feeling was that I should be grateful to be there. The most junior member of staff was the most patronising and aggressive person I have ever worked with and obviously took great pleasure in having someone younger and even less important than she was to order around. As well as that, they would only pay for transport within London zones 1 and 2 (great, they paid me 4 pounds a day when I was paying 400 a month).
The ‘highlight’ of the experience came at the end when I emailed the director to say thank you (who knows why…it must have been drilled into me that I was lucky to have had the position!) and she replied: ‘Dear Kathy*…’ First of all, I signed the email you replied to with my correct name (Kate). Secondly, it’s in my email address and thirdly, I WORKED FOR YOU FOR TWO MONTHS! The office was tiny, everyone sat in one room around one desk. She could have had the courtesy to learn her temporary slave’s name. Disgusting.
It was really that that made me want to email you. Interns are treated appallingly all the time, and it’s disgraceful. It should not be allowed. What really appalls me is the lack of decency and the feeling of ‘well, she can do it for us…I might be too good to buy my own lunch but she certainly isn’t too good to do it for me.’ I felt completely worthless the whole time I worked there and as opposed to increasing my confidence and encouraging me to establish a career, I was left feeling vulnerable and afraid of going anywhere near that industry again.
PS. I still don’t have a job…I’m about to start another (unpaid) internship. Joy.
*All names have been changed.