Archive for the 'Employment' Category

How paid staff view interns

Currently I am reading Ross Perlin’s book while coming to the end of two 3-month part-time internships, one with a tiny NGO and the other with an MP, and trying to figure out where I go from here.

I have come to the conclusion that doing more unpaid internships after this is not a good idea because it won’t look good on my CV: people will assume that I am from a privileged background and that daddy and mummy are providing for me so I can work for free, whereas the reality is that I studied hard as an undergraduate, secured generous funding to do a PhD and, post-PhD, have some of that funding saved up to enable me to explore different career options in an economic climate where every paid job I apply to has several hundred other applicants.

With regard to the assumptions people make about interns, my experience in the MP’s office is particularly amusing. On the one hand the office relies on a steady stream of interns doing identical work to paid employees. On the other hand, I have heard the paid employees making remarks that display resentment towards “rich kids who can afford to do unpaid internships.” These remarks were not directed at me, but were directed at a particular well-known journalist who is perceived to have got to her current position after 2 years of unpaid internships. Nevertheless it struck me as particularly foolish, clumsy or rude that these remarks were made in front of me when I have contributed so much to the work of the office, and when the work of the office relies on the contributions of at least one unpaid intern at all times.

On the whole, I have found both internships incredibly useful, giving me experience, knowledge and access that would otherwise be extremely hard to come by. On the whole, the paid staff I have been working with have been extremely patient, kind and generous with their time. They have gone out of their way to make sure that much of the work I am doing is related to the particular interests I specified at the outset, and they have also gone out of their way to help me with job applications, making recommendations for where and how to look for jobs, and where and how to apply. In both internships I have been either put in touch with contacts of paid employees who might be able to help me with specific jobs, or paid employees have put in a good word for me with someone they know in the office where I am applying for a paid position.

I believe that the main problem with internships is that in my experience what is happening is that an unpaid individual with no rights is doing identical work to a paid employee with full rights. Yes, an internship presents an opportunity for an individual to get a foot in the door. The danger is that in the current economic climate an internship may become the only way to get a foot in the door – and, as a result, become the norm. If the MP’s office stopped taking on interns they would simply have to reduce their workload or apply for an increase to the office budget to pay for more staff.

Ultimately this is what I believe they should do, but currently there is no incentive for them to do so. The state could provide that incentive. I believe that tighter regulation of internships is needed to ensure that unpaid interns are not doing identical work to paid employees, and that interns who are doing identical work to paid employees are paid the national minimum wage.

Metropolitan Police Report: First Year of training to become an unpaid internship

Our friends over at Graduate Fog have just brought our attention to this shocking and scandalous story from the Standard and the Telegraph:

As part of an overhaul of police recruitment – to save millions a year in training costs – Scotland Yard is considering making new recruits in London work as volunteer special constables for at least a year before they can apply to become full-time paid Met officers.

This saving of £12 million a year reveals the shocking state of our public finances. Who are the next generation of police officers? Only those who can afford to work for free for a year! Incredible. Absolutely incredible.

One thing is clear. This is a sign of things to come. If you want a job in the public sector APPLY NOW before this becomes the norm.

It’s one thing for small think-tanks or charities to employ unpaid interns… but for an organisation as big as the POLICE FORCE do away with paid training. We are lost for words.

This is a story which will rumble on and on and on. We haven’t heard the last of this one.

Breaking News: +++ Low Pay Commission Reports on Unpaid Internships +++

The evidence we received on unpaid work experience indicates that there is systematic abuse of interns, with a growing number of people undertaking ‘work’ but excluded from the minimum wage.

It is becoming increasingly commonplace in certain sectors, particularly the media, entertainment industry and in politics, for employers to demand a period of unpaid work experience as a means of getting into the industry. The Government’s Fair Access to the Professions report highlighted the issue of unpaid internships and how they serve to limit career choices to those who can afford to work unpaid and those who live near London.

We further encourage BIS as part of this work to engage directly with the sectors in which lengthy unpaid internships have become the norm. We invite BIS to present its proposed strategy to us by the summer.

The Low Pay Commission Report can be read here.

More to follow…

Spotlight on the Manchester Graduate Internship Programme

With the Government putting increasing emphasis on unpaid internships as the answer to graduate unemployment we thought we would take a look at a successful scheme run by the University of Manchester, which links up employers and students with PAID internship schemes offering graduate level work.

I certainly wish the scheme had been better advertised while I was at Manchester – because they have managed to get 65 students in placements this year, paying at least minimum wage. Industries offering internships range from engineering and lab work to IT and marketing.

The emphasis, says Anne Milligan, the programme coordinator, is on “helping small businesses access talented graduates” and making sure they are offering “graduate level work”. Inspections are done to make sure interns are not making cups of tea or spending six months photocopying.

This is the way a graduate internships scheme should be done, and benefits both the graduates, and small businesses in the region.

The scheme was dreamt up in 2008 with 42 placements, and is steadily growing. Already this year 5 grads have been offered permanent positions. Who can argue with that?

If anyone approaches them with an unpaid position they tell them where to go. Anne described unpaid work as “dreadful” and “devaluing what graduates can offer”. Three cheers for Manchester University Careers Service!



Which? route to take?

There are loads of people with horrible experiences as interns but my story is different. I graduated with a history degree from the LSE last year and spent 3 months searching for an entry-level job. I have some work experience but not really a lot and given the economic situation I wasn’t very optimistic. I didn’t apply for any internships because they were mostly unpaid and although my parents proposed to support me financially I decided to try it on my own. I became really desperate and applied for any jobs even those for which I was clearly over-qualified and which, to be honest, I’m quite sure I would have dropped out fast.

Continue reading ‘Which? route to take?’

Where do you draw the line?

Almost all MPs hire interns. Hundreds, probably thousands, go through Parliament each year. This is a fact we have highlighted on these pages many times over the past year.

We have heard from interns feeling exploited and abused and those who had great experiences and managed to progress from being an intern to a researcher or a caseworker.

We don’t often highlight particular adverts here… but occasionally… just occasionally… something stands out as beyond the pale.

Let me introduce you to David Lidington MP. He is looking for an intern.

Continue reading ‘Where do you draw the line?’

Expenses-only engagements are illegal, say Employment Tribunals

The Employment Tribunals, sitting in Reading, have ruled that workers engaged on an expenses-only basis are entitled to payment at least in line with the national minimum wage, in addition to payment for the holiday they accrue.

The decision arises from a case brought by Nicola Vetta, a former art department assistant, against London Dreams Motion Pictures Ltd.

Read more here:

The role of internships for employers

I originally found your site after reading this BBC article.

I wanted to read about your points-of-views to make sure we treat our interns (currently 2) as well as possible.

Most of what I read is extremely fair and I too find it sickening that some companies see it as a way to get free labour. I hope this isn’t as prevalent as some of the articles make out.

One thing I was a little worried about is that it seems some people what internships banning or a minimum wage implemented.

I was concerned that this would ruin the good opportunities for others. The guys that we currently have on board, I hope find working with us extremely useful for experience and know that they will be offered a fair wage a they progress (in fact one of them was offered a wage 4 days in to his internship as he is so good!). But we wouldn’t have been able to take the risk investing training and time into unproven employees. I know some have qualifications but there so many people with qualifications AND experience looking for work it just wouldn’t make sense to take them on.

That said we have taken a gamble on a couple of people without even qualifications. One great, one awful.

What I really want to say is that internships are a great way for agencies to test a persons ‘ unproven skills and have a workforce bolstered for little or no cost, and they can be a great way for people to prove themselves and make themselves an invaluable asset.

However we have had a few interns that have missed the point or had a bad attitude and I would say from most of the people I interview graduates have extremely unrealistic expectations. For instance one guy who joined us on a three month contract demanded a £15k wage after just a month – and a month of arriving late and leaving early! It’s a pity as he had a lot of potential and if he had a bit more dedication would have fitted in very nicely.

I hope some of this is a useful view of things from an agencies perspective.

From intern to employee

It’s official folks: it can happen. 

I’ve made the transition from parliamentary intern to parliamentary researcher in just three and a half months.

A while back I wrote the piece “valuable but difficult: living on the biscuit collection”.  I was depressed and demoralised; I felt more like throwing the towel in than Daniel Hannam did when DC back-tracked on that “cast- iron” guarantee. 

But, I persevered. I had to – what was the alternative, to just give up on everything I had worked so hard for? No, I wasn’t giving up that easily and with every application that was rejected I became more determined that I would get there eventually, and I did. And you will too.

Here are my tips for making the most of your internship in parliament:

1.               Make peace

The sooner you accept the nature of the beast the better in my opinion. Interning is a necessary evil and you need to make peace with the fact that you will be doing this for the next six months to a year.

Continue reading ‘From intern to employee’

Media interest in interns and Internships

Two bits of national press this week. Firstly, the BBC featured the issue of parliamentary internships on BBC Radio Five live and simultaneously on the BBC website. And today the Guardian have included an interview with my colleague Rosy in the Work section. Interestingly the journalist who wrote the article, Huma Qureshi, is an ex-intern herself, and got her job at the Guardian/Observer after a stint of unpaid work! The message is clear: it can happen!

An entirely positive internship – despite being broke for the duration of it!

One of the modules of my MBA required me to do an internship. As a materialistic female with dreams of free cosmetics and the prospect of wearing shoulderpads and stillettoes when I finally graduated, I asked to be put forward for a marketing department in one of our better known, international cosmetic companies. The university, however, suggested I try a parliamentary internship and, to my horror, I was accepted by an MP. I spent two days a week for three months following a charismatic MP around the Westminster Village, watching him get interviewed, watching him debate and meeting some remarkable people, including Secretaries of State. I drank subsidised beer, learned about politics (of which I had previously known nothing) and made some lifelong friendships. On graduation, the MP offered me another internship within one of the organisations he chaired so that I would be able to look for a job “from a job”. As the interviews began, a paid job became available within this not for profit organisation and I spent over three years working there. I forgot about money and make-up, learned how to run an actual company, continued to network with Parliamentarians and industry leaders who valued my position and developed an interest in sustainability. I’ll never make millions, but my internship has put me firmly on the path of something interesting and with a strong network of my own. A number of us who began our careers in this company have created an alumni of interns and a vast number have gone on to great things, including a career in politics. I think an internship is great if you have no idea what you want, or are trying to break into a tough industry. They are a little unfair, I appreciate, and few can afford to be unpaid, but if you are able, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

An entirely positive experience – despite being broke for the duration of it!

Perseverance

Having graduated with two masters from some of the most prestigious institutions in the world, I was naïve; I expected I could go straight into employment. But that idea turned out to be a metaphorical house built on sand. Instead I quickly understood I needed to do internships.

My first internship was very hard to come by, it took a lot of time effort and applications, but the thing I found most helpful was being creative. For example when I watched the television I would have a pen and a piece of appear beside me, and whenever I seen an organization appear on the television I would like to intern with, I would write their names down and cold apply later on. This tactic actually helped me get my first internship.

The problem with my first internship was I lived almost at the opposite end of the country from even the interview, so I had to catch a plane flight on my own expense to just go to the interview. I was fortunate and the think tank accepted me and there pay was very good for an internship, it was two hundred pounds a week, this helped me a lot. But for me the worry remind of getting housing, now I was very lucky as I had long lost relatives that lived in the very north of the city I was interning in, but nonetheless this area was cheap enough that I could of rented even if I didn’t have relatives.

The internship itself was very good, the staff treated me with a lot of respect, the boss of the think tank interacted with me on a very regular basis, and the work load was continuous which I very much appreciated. I couldn’t sing the praises of the people there enough. But what I have learned is this for my internship with this think tank what I put in I got out, so if I turned up at 7.30 in the morning and worked through to 7 at night  the staff recognized this and treated me with more respect. If I could bring new understanding, arguments and knowledge to the table they included me in more discussion. Lastly because they were very good to me they helped me network in a area of work that is notoriously hard to break into(and the networking has lead directly to my internship I am doing right now). I worked very hard from them and they rewarded me in return.

Continue reading ‘Perseverance’


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.

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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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