Here everyone is mostly concerned about interns having to work for free. Well, frankly, I don’t mind it at all. Not that my financial situation is amazing- it is actually rather awful. I just think when there is a will, there is a way – one can always work evenings and weekends to pay the bills. Working 2 jobs is, of course, never easy, but the experience you get from the internship is worth it.
I don’t mind that interns have to spend quite a share of their time on administrative duties. No one gets fancy degrees thinking they will be printing out hand outs or staffing envelopes, but it is the rule of the game and you’ve got to learn to respect it and try to get something positive from it.
What I do mind though is something that I don’t see discussed too often in the Media – the tremendous role of “glass ceiling” involved in securing the internship…
I am by no means under-qualified: I had two degrees by the time I turned 21, and added a Masters degree to that list in a year. Yet, whereas I considered it a Good Thing, for some people it was an issue that I am academically overqualified against my limited practical work experience. Some of the internship vacancies require a person to have up to 2 years work experience in the field (and experiences gained in developing countries don’t seem to count towards that, irrespective of how prestigious they are). Which makes the whole concept of internships and placements pointless, because they are supposed to provide experience, which most fresh graduates lack.
Having tried to secure an internship ever since I was a Masters Student and a year on after my graduation, I’ve sent out countless applications, volunteered on multiple short missions, attended a few interviews, but still didn’t get anything worthwhile to put on my CV out of all those activities. My skill level is not the issue, as I have been constantly reassured. A number of charities have got back to me, saying that I should reapply to their vacancies if something new opens up. I have concentrated on presentation, consulted multiple career advisers, who kept saying they don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t secure a placement. The first thing I think after getting yet another negative response is that probably someone out there had their dissertation topic directly related to the objectives of the organization. While it is certainly productive for me to look to any flaws in my application, I have to admit that that may not reflect reality to the fullest extend possible. Like how about those times when my dissertation topic is identical to those to be researched by the chosen intern- and I am STILL not getting it?
I am not alone in this; many people I’ve known have given up after experiencing something similar. And yet, I’ve come across people, who, having just the one Degree and no work experience whatsoever, “secured” a paid research position right after graduation. I am not saying that the ENTIRE charity sector is full of nepotism, I am just saying there seems to be enough of it for perfectly qualified people not to get into the sector because the pool, where they have to compete for the opportunities distributed by merit, is too small and is only getting smaller.
Thus, if it was up to me, I wouldn’t be concerned with advocating for paid internships, what I would advocate for is creating a system, in which people, who deserve a chance to breakthrough into the sector, could really get that chance, on a paid or unpaid basis.