We are in a vulnerable state, in a vulnerable market. We’re striving to make it on to the bottom rung of the ladder, and even that seems impossible at times. Some people argue that we are exploited by others in our desperate search for a break; we work long hours for free, and go largely unrewarded, except for a few cuttings.
I’m alright with that, though. Several months back, I submitted myself to the fact that aspiring journalists don’t get paid. I’ve worked at local papers that are losing money hand over fist, and their staff were always friendly and helpful. On a placement like that, where I’ve been rewarded with a great experience and learned a lot, I’m happy to work for free. I wasn’t being exploited.
However, exploitation does exist, and as wannabe journalists we are a prime target. We’re keen, studious, and it’s expected that we’ll work for nothing. Last week I stumbled across an interning company called Etsio. They offer paid work experience. The catch? You’re the one paying. You buy yourself a placement.
I was horrified. We work ourselves to the bone as wannabes, largely for free, and here is a company looking to monetise us before we can monetise ourselves. Etsio deal in internships with small businesses, and charge up to £200 per day for some placements. That money is split between the business providing the placement and Etsio.
I still can’t get my head round it. In my eyes, it’s simply immoral. There’s always been debate about interns being exploited, and whether we should work for free, but this is in a whole new league. Etsio claim that you’re “buying experience” but in reality it’s just a nice little earner for everyone but the wannabe.
In their FAQ’s section, Etsio ask ” is it ethical?”
“Most people understand they need to invest in their career. They pay to learn new skills and go on training courses. That’s what Etsio offers: the chance to invest in yourself.”
Using a company like Etsio (there are others too), is not investing in yourself. You’re robbing yourself, and it makes you look easy to manipulate. You’re also displaying a complete lack of business accumen. By all means, work for free, I think that much is necessary to a degree- I can’t see that changing any time soon. But as wannabes we have to show some spine, whether that’s standing up and saying I demanding payment or blacklisting companies like Etsio.
Etsio might look like it provides an easy option to get some experience under your belt, but really you can find experience elsewhere without paying for it. Don’t be fooled into paying. If you do, the person you work for isn’t likely to show any real interest in you. They are probably doing it for the extra cash. It’s not like if it goes well when you pay for a week, you can go back afterwards for free either. Etsio’s contracts mean that any future experience has to go through them, and they’ll make sure you keep paying.
This latest development in monetising enthusiastic wannabes demonstrates a worrying trend. Companies such as Etsio are spreading as our demand for experience increases as we struggle to stand out from the crowd. Be enthusiastic, do what needs to be done to make it in a tough industry, but don’t give someone else an easy ride. Work for free, but push for your expenses. Ask to be paid for your efforts, and certainly never give up your cash. Let’s make companies like Etsio redundant and turn the exploitation of interns around; frankly, we deserve better.
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After finishing my stint in student media, I couldn’t help but look