The following isn’t a direct account of my own experience, it’s that of a friend’s. I keep reading about “people with affluent parents” or “people who can afford unpaid internships”, but here is an example of that in practice.
I myself have done a handful of short unpaid internships, but luckily they were only a few hours a week so I managed to stay on the dole/in a job at the same time, and the organisations really needed the help – they weren’t for profit and did a lot for the local community. I would recommend the odd 2 week internship to those who can manage it, but the fact that I am in a good job right now is partly down to my adamant decision to never consider long term unpaid internships, whether or not I could somehow save up the money to do it. I’ve been extremely fortunate, but I was determined to hold out for a decent paid job.
My account is a clear example of how the unpaid internship culture of this country is working. An acquaintance of mine – who I met through a paid internship – has long complained to me of her boyfriend’s laziness and unwillingness to find a calling in life. When we interned together, she would tell me about how he barely scraped through his degree, as he was uninterested in the subject, and was being propped up in a house that had been bought for him by his wealthy parents. After graduating, and not necessarily wanting to enter the world of work yet, he went straight into a History Masters (presumably paid for by said wealthy parents). She told me about how he nearly failed a lot of his modules and had to resit, taking 2 years to complete the degree. At this point I didn’t want to make any judgements, some of my most intelligent and hard working friends and relatives had been through similar issues at university, however, I didn’t exactly expect the following to happen to this guy.
My friend often talked to me about how she debated whether or not to even stay with her boyfriend on the basis of him not wanting to get a job, or have any interest in a career at all. Fast forward a few months, and his ‘contacts’ have found him an unpaid internship with his local MP (his first job ever). It turns out that the job is going to be based at Westminster, and it’s unpaid. Here’s the point where most people would start looking for something else, because living and working in London for 4 months unpaid is well out of most peoples’ reach, regardless of how great an opportunity it might be. Fortunately this young man has wealthy loving parents to support him. This doesn’t seem too shocking, except for the fact that my friend keeps bragging about his £600 per week flat by the river. In Westminster. Almost every other day they update their Facebook profiles with pictures of them enjoying meals out and drinks after work. Those are the kind of treats that unpaid interns should be able to reward themselves with, right?
Something’s wrong here, isn’t it?