Archive for the 'Debate' Category

It’s been fun

As you can probably tell by the frequency of our posts, the Interns Anonymous blog has been winding down for some time. One threat of legal action too many has confirmed what we have been thinking for some time: we don’t have the time and energy to do this blog the justice it deserves. 

In the hands of our fellow campaigners, the brilliant Intern Aware, Graduate Fog and committed individuals like Mark Watson and Joe Thomas, the campaign against unpaid internships continues to make fantastic progress. There is much work still to be done but we both feel very proud that over the past four and a half years the issue of unpaid work has entered the public consciousness and businesses are beginning to understand what is right and what is wrong.

We’ve had great fun working on this campaign – from getting unpaid internships on to the front page of the Guardian, to being invited to discuss the issue with various government departments. One highlight (although this happens to almost every blogger!) was being contacted by the British Library for permission to archive the content of the blog for future researchers and historians. This, after all, was what Interns Anonymous was all about: cataloguing what the job market is like for our generation and giving a voice to those who didn’t and still don’t feel listened to.

To the hundreds of interns who have written to us with their experiences, to those we’ve met and the thousands more who have answered our surveys – THANK YOU SO MUCH. We started this blog in the pub, sitting with some friends who were all unpaid interns. We wondered how many interns there were – what they did all day and how they felt about it. Our maxim from four years ago still stands true today. Only by trying to make sense of what young people are experiencing in the job market can we have any hope of sorting out the issue of unemployment and underemployment. We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: if you can’t afford to work for free, then you are effectively cut-off from a whole range of potential careers.

You can never say never but this blog and our email address are going to be pretty quiet from now on. 

Alex and Rosy

 

A dangerous figure, coming soon

Imagine all of the potential and anger of the UK young unemployed was channelled into a single powerful and dangerous figure. What would you ask it? What would it tell you?

This project enables that interaction with an online platform and installation at Somerset House. People under the age of 30 who are not in paid employment will enter their details into a facebook app and upload an image of their face. This information will be merged to form the archetypal unemployed young person, and will result in a sculptural installation in Somerset House. The non young unemployed general public are also invited to add questions to the database. The statue will then tour the UK in user-selected locations.

The more participants the figure has, the more powerful and representatives the figure becomes. So log in and talk to A Dangerous Figure!

Sneaky unpaid work trial

Our correspondent wished to name the company and we cannot verify the details of their story

I applied for a ‘creative content trainee’ position with MEC in Manchester after finishing my degree. MEC are one of the world’s ‘leading’ media agencies and are owned by a very large American company. I had two interviews – at which we discussed my experience (of which I had little, only university projects) and my creative ideas for two clients they had at the time (how to help them with SEO/ drive traffic to the website). After passing these interviews I was invited to do a three day trial at the office. During these three days I worked 9-5, barely allowed myself a lunch break, and worked my butt off to find a lot of blogs they hadn’t already found, which they could use to host guest posts. I negotiated with bloggers, worked on the project in the evenings at home and contributed a much needed alternative and fresh perspective on the project at hand. When the three days finished I was shown the door and contacted a week later to say I was ‘not experienced enough’.

OK let me dig into this.

As a poor graduate with no income, three weeks rent for the whole assessment (from interview to final decision) is a bit of an inconvenience. They knew exactly how much experience I had, as we had discussed this in not one, but TWO interviews. The very fact that they advertised the role as trainee led me to believe that little experience was required in the first place. The most annoying part of this was that they had dragged the experience out, set me up to believe I was seriously being considered for the role, took all the work I had put in for them and said cheerio without paying me. I was so furious that they had blatantly used me that I replied to the head manager to ask why they had wasted my time and money, and could they please pay me for the three days I worked. I got no response.

Aside from this I found some of their practices dodgy. For example, I was asked to create a fake alias and gmail address with which to contact bloggers and websites. I expected to use a company email address or at least, I assumed the permanent staff in the team would. I was shocked to find they all had fake names, twitter and gmail accounts. Not very ethical for such a large company?  

I am certain they did this to a number of graduates as the post was advertised on their website for about 4 months. Getting unsuspecting and naive grads to undertake a three day work trial appears to be a little loophole they took advantage of – saving costs, and stealing fresh ideas they couldn’t think of themselves.

This was only three days, but I wanted to flag this company for the attention of other graduates thinking of applying to any MEC vacancies. Don’t waste your time and energy!

A two month long trial shift: fashion fails again

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse…we get this in the mail. Our correspondent included two tweets as screen shots, we are posting them because they asked us to. 

I have recently been unfairly dismissed from the owner of a design house because I told them they were being unrealistic with the volume of garments demanded to be produced per day… 

I started a ‘trial month’ that soon turned into a two month trial the day I started and later found that other graduates on trial had been there for three months or more.

I relocated because it was a requirement. I was told I had to work full time and was given no funding whatsoever. I was expected to pay for rent, bills, food and travel myself.

After the first few days it soon became apparent that there was only one full time paid member of staff. The rest were interns. I also met the owner of the company (for the first time) after 5 full days of work.

I was expected to work a minimum of 10 hours a day. We were never told what time to we would be allowed to leave in the evening until the last minute.

I was put on the production line immediately. With no training whatsoever I was making garments to be sold for profit.

Feeling concerned about the businesses set up (majority unpaid interns, looked like there were no job prospects despite being invited for a ‘trial period’) I broke down, told the design assistant that I had concerns. She asked the owner to speak to me. She saw that I had been crying… laughed at me and asked what was wrong. She then went on to say that she didn’t have time to see how everyone was feeling, she was always too busy. “I’m a cold heartless bitch, that’s just the way I am” As if I was just supposed to accept that and move on….

I decided to stick it out and hope things would get better…

 

They didn’t.

Last week, at the end of my third week working for the company I was asked to fill out a timetable that had been put on the wall for each intern. I explained that once I had made a certain style of dress I would know how many I could make in a day. Her response was “It’s not about how many you want to make in a day, it’s how many you HAVE to make. If you have 50 dresses to make in a day you have to make 50” I then explained that she was being unrealistic in her expectations and that it only made sense for me to put down as many as I could feasibly make in a day. She then went on to say “don’t argue with me I’ve been working in this industry for years” I started to walk away after saying that I couldn’t talk to her about this as she was being unreasonable. She then shouted at me “get your stuff together and leave, go home”

I was given no appreciation for the work I had completed. She didn’t care who I was, I was just a number. Free labour.

To add insult to injury she later put this on twitter…

Image

Seeing this was heart wrenching. I felt embarrassed and stupid. Having such a bad experience in an industry that I had previously felt so passionately about has almost put me off entirely. The worse thing is that evidently this happened before hence ‘another intern has been asked to leave’ yet most are too ashamed to tell anyone. I’m furious. Having met so many talented interns at this placement I am concerned that their hopes and dreams will be shattered too. 

Graduate Talent Pool – still unreliable, still dodgy

We have taken the original post down for the moment…

Internships and PhDs in the humanities: notes from the USA

This article was written by Sofia Rasmussen, who has written a lot of great stuff about PhDs, internships and jobs – this gives us an idea of what interns experience in the USA

Not all internship experiences will be great. In fact, most won’t be. Sure, it’s a line on a resume, something to bolster your academic career or add legitimacy to your online phd programme and maybe you’ll get hands-on experience in the field you hope to make permanent someday. But, with properly tempered expectations, participants can and will make it through them. Know that the average internship is underpaid, if paid at all, and those The Devil Wears Prada horror stories are based in reality. Interns are treated poorly, looked down on, stuck in mail rooms and warehouse positions with little to do with the actual industry.

An intern at Anne Bowen, who would prefer to remain nameless, reflects on her experience, “As design assistant, I had the honor of working very closely with Anne herself. On a day to day basis, I was expected to cater to her every whim (which included dropping everything at any time to do what she deemed as more important), clean up her dog’s droppings from the carpet, and change light bulbs, all while single-handedly managing any and all production and making sure deadlines were met and dresses were beaded.” For a student planning a career in fashion, it’s hard to see what true knowledge is gained by changing light bulbs and cleaning up after a dog.

A grad student who goes only by Jane said of the internship program in clinical psychology at  Alliant National University, “The APA internship match rate is a joke. You will not get a decent job after completing 5 years of doctoral training here. Plus you may never graduate because they abuse and dismiss students. Some of the programs have a 50% attrition rate too.” This is one of the biggest internship problems: despite long hours and hard training, you’re no closer to your career than you were before you stepped through the doors.

Gawker was privy to a leak from the New York Sun’s Guidelines for Interns:  “Internships will be terminated for any intern who, between 6pm and the end of the press run, fails to answer calls to his or her mobile phone for more than 30 minutes. It is therefore recommended that subway rides of more than 30 minutes be avoided.”

That’s not a dramatization of the intern experience at the New York Sun; it’s an element of the internship that the magazine freely admits. The magazine also warns interns in their manual that any intern who even asks about a byline, let alone complains, will be terminated. Not really any impetus to stick with a career in publishing.

It’s no secret that a bad interning experience can break a potential career. Though some internships do turn into full time job offers, and there are dozens of companies with great internship programs that an intern would be happy to take long term, it’s important to view the average internship as a learning experience. Have hope! Even the worst internship comes with one huge plus: when you go into an interview, and you’re asked about the worst working conditions you’ve ever had, you’ll have an answer. And a solid one at that.

Eastern promise: interning abroad can be a better option

I just want to share my internship/job experience working for NGOs in the Middle East…I know this is quite a specific field, but my story has some relevance to many of the issues you are discussing.  I have a vague ambition to work in International Human Rights, specifically with regards to the Middle East, and decided to take a year out of my degree and come to Cairo for a year to get some work experience.

Here, I had the rather shocking experience of, after a month, getting a salary from my current NGO, who insisted if I was working I had to be paid.  Soon later, I got a contract, as I asked for job security so I could plan my year properly. As you could guess, many NGOs in the developing world struggle with funding and have nothing like the resources available to private sector companies back in London.  (The coordinator for my organization hasn’t been able to give himself a salary for the past couple of months, making do with money from other consultancy work he does.) Yet many organizations here still manage to pay their interns/and or hire fresh graduates.  I have other graduate friends who are working or interning with NGOs in the region, who are even provided with accomodation. (My journalist friends, interested in foreign affairs, have had similar experiences here, being paid for their work and interning in English language newspapers, and due to the comparative lack of competition in Cairo, they have had work about the city published in national newspapers in London.)

In contrast, I have many friends back in London who have degrees, and masters.  They have been interning for human rights groups, think tanks and NGOs for months without pay, working in bars to sustain a living.  To those friends, and others who want to work in international development, I’d say brave the unknown and leave London and get experience on the ground for a few years.  You’ll find you’re presence is much appreciated, and it often shows in pay, actual job titles and respect.

I’d also say to those who want to work in international development, not to look for jobs on the internet from home, but to save up money for flights, take a risk and go out there.  Native English speakers are always in demand, and particulary in unstable countries where a lot of foreigners leave, internships often lead to job offers.  My organization and all my other NGO worker friends say they never look at applications coming from outside Egypt, due to a) the hassle of organizing interviews and b) the very real possibility that although an applicant might like the idea of working in the Middle East, in reality many people find the life difficult and quickly leave.  It is also crazy to take internships in developing countries that you practically have to pay for, i.e. volunteer tourism.  Again, I stress, if you actually get out there, there are many many organizations who would love to have someone work for free for them.  There is simply not the same internship culture to compete with.  I have now been offered a permanent job, but it is with regret, I will have to return to England to study…and continue my work experience unpaid, doing things that after a year of an intense job, I feel slightly overqualified for.

I just find it insane that most local NGOs here at least pay stipends to their interns, but back in London, organizations apparently can’t afford to.  Yes, there is a difference in living expenses; my £350 a month allows me to get by in Cairo, but even that amount would be better than nothing in England. I guess benefits to interns in other parts of the world comes from a society which finds the thought of unpaid work pretty confusing. And I think this is mentality we should re-adopt.

Fashion, fashion, fashion

After interning, Lauren set up a campaign…what a great idea!

My name is Lauren Briggs and I’m a third year Fashion Communication student at Northumbria University. It can be quite daunting to be faced with graduation this year when Fashion is known to be one of the most notorious industries for exploiting interns. The demand for work experience today is probably at the highest it’s ever been and I’m soon to be catapulted straight into the frantic internship system.

I’ve already dipped my toe into the industry as an intern. My one-month unpaid placement within the press office of a well-known high street brand opened my eyes to the real problems of internships.

Although my experience was an enjoyable and worthwhile one, the tasks set out to me were essential to the company and would have been carried out by a paid employee if I had not been present. I believe I should have been paid for the work I was doing. The travel expenses the company provided me and my own savings were just about enough to fund my month in London. Unfortunately therefore, I could not carry out the second placement I was recommended for by my supervisor at the time with a very well known PR company. This placement would have improved my CV considerably and perhaps led to a job opportunity.

The company I was with took on two or three interns every four weeks to carry out a list of day-to-day duties that were essential to the business. I worked alongside two other interns who, like me, were trying to get as much experience listed on their C.V.’s as possible and had already made their way through three or four internships in the past year. I asked them how they could afford to intern for so long without any pay and they both replied, “I can’t!”. 

Another thing I discovered whilst I was interning was the difference in respect I received. The employees I worked alongside in the office were all very lovely and treated me very well, however as soon as you are introduced to members of staff outside the office as “the intern”, you’re somehow immediately relegated to so many things – unnoticed, unimportant and unnecessary. It is understandable why the majority of people look at interns in this way; perhaps because we are there to learn and experience the industry and therefore carry no importance or relevance to the paid members of staff working hard at their paid jobs, however interns often work just as hard, if not harder than some paid employees. Think about it, interns are constantly trying to impress and forever trying to stand out and therefore get the job done to the absolute best of their ability.

The feedback I received from an anonymous intern in my own research on the subject validates this. She was working at a very well known fashion house alongside 11 other interns. There were only 6 members of paid staff. The interns worked 12 hour shifts with a half an hour break whilst the paid staff often went home hours earlier. The jobs the interns were given were more demanding, more essential to the designer and made up the majority of the workload.

I’ve heard the same kind of story from so many interns across the UK and I’m eager to see change. The action taken by HM Revenue & Customs is the first step towards change, but I hope this move will advance further and influence other industries to pay their interns.

My own experience as an intern has inspired me to start my own campaign, The Internship Project, www.theinternshipproject.com. The main aim of the campaign is to promote the enforcement of the National Minimum Wage and work primarily with interns, students, graduates and young people to make internships fairer. The campaign launches on the 16th February 2012 and I hope that I can gather as much support as possible to really make a difference.

Typical…

Thanks to Kim for posting this!

Good experience at Shortlist magazine

We’re pretty sure this is written by a real person who interned at Shortlist, rather than their marketing team being sneaky…we’ve learnt to recognise the tone of those emails

A two-week placement from heaven. For starters upon arrival on the first day, the editorial assistant immediately came to meet me. And I wasn’t just sitting around twiddling my thumbs. Once they had set me a story and I proved that I could write, I was literally sourced out to other members of the team and actually got to write things that were published. And everything I wrote was assessed and critiqued by either the editorial assistant or the news editor, so you knew where you were going right or wrong.

 Yes, some days there simply wasn’t much to do, as a lot of the features were done in advance. But the people in the office were friendly. The most menial task I had to do was sort out the mail once a day. But to be fair, it helped me to learn everyone’s name and where they sat. And this placement involves putting you in the heart of things. Surreally enough, tea-making duties are shared out. So at one point, the editor made me a cup of tea! When the news team had a meeting for story ideas you were expected to not only attend, but to actually contribute and have ideas. And I was reimbursed for my expenses like travel and lunch.

Towards the end of my placement they put me into contact with another magazine that offered me a two-week placement on the basis of their recommendation. All in all, a good place to work for. And more freebies than you can carry, if you make friends with the reviews editor and the senior writer

Having read through all the things that people have said, yes, internships can be shit. They expect a lot of you, and some don’t even have the decency to reimburse you for your travel, let alone your lunch (cough cough, Wonderland). But for every shit one out there, there are a few good ones, where you will make good contacts. Keep on trying!!!

Making a complaint against your employer

HMRC and Interns Anonymous have teamed up and prepared guidance for any interns who think they might be entitled to claim back the National Minimum Wage.

HMRC are responsible for enforcing the National Minimum Wage. Recently they have launched a ‘dynamic response unit’ (they are like a SWAT team of tax inspectors) to ensure that interns are paid the National Minimum Wage.

The guidance takes you through the whole process of claiming back any due wages. You can claim wages up to six years after you completed the internship. So even if you have moved on to a new job, you can still claim back wages.

If you have completed or are presently undertaking an internship and think you may be entitled to the National Minimum Wage, you can speak confidentially to the pay and rights helpline on 0800 917 2368.

Read it here.

Unspeak

Ok sorry we haven’t posted much up blah blah, we haven’t even linked properly to our Guardian front page (oh by the way did I mention we were mentioned on the front page of the Guardian?)…in the meantime here is a link to a post we missed on a great blog ‘unspeak’, which unpicks the meanings implied and constructed by political language or articles in the press. The post in question beats the hell out of an article in the Economist, which was published in September- we really should have seen this sooner and for that we are truly sorry.


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.

Disclaimer

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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