Posts Tagged 'USA'

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.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T (worst internship ever)

Most of the posts on the site talk about internships based in the UK- here’s one from a graphic design graduate who spent a summer working for a web design company in Philadelphia, U.S.A, land of the free (labour):

I had an internship last summer at a web design company. I am a graphic designer who has graduated college but took on an unpaid internship to learn more about the industry and learn about web design. I made all of this clear in the interview. My “boss” every day treated me with no respect. Yelled at me when I didn’t understand things and asked for help. To the extent that one time I asked for assistance on something I didn’t understand and he laughed at me and said “Jesus Christ you think you’re ever gonna learn about web design?” in front of the whole office. Furthermore, I asked for assistance on a new website and in front of the whole office he yelled at me “THIS COMES UNDER THE CATEGORY OF FIGURE IT OUT YOURSELF!” Figure it out myself? I’m an unpaid intern trying to learn from industry pros (although it’s hard for me to say he was anything close to professional). This should come under the category of help out your unpaid intern who’s doing your work for free. My “boss” took every opportunity to embarrass me in front of the office. By the internship’s end, he looked at my portfolio site where I claimed that I helped out on various projects at the internship and stated exactly my extent in the project. He then embarrassed me in front of the whole office yelling “Why the hell are you going to take credit for someone else’s work?” What the hell???? I spent all summer working on those projects and for me to state that I assisted on the projects is worthy of spilling out to the office that I’m taking credit for other people’s work? Even though I receive ZERO mention on their website for the graphic design and coding I’ve done for their projects. The featured projects on their site are all projects I worked on! Needless to say, after those outbursts I quit…

and I’ve never quit anything in my life. It would have been nice to be a little bit appreciated. I was never offered a lunch on them. I was never invited to company functions unless I had to videotape something for them. I had a really crappy experience there and tell everyone in the area that they’re a bunch of A-Holes, with the exception of the lower level people. Sorry to make this so long, but my experience has really frustrated me- that I worked a whole summer for free as a college graduate doing work that any designer would be paid at least $20/hr to do, while a 15 year old at McDonalds is doing the most unskilled labor and being paid more than I was.

Maccy Ds

Benevolent corporates

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’


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