As a University student I was always ambitious. Right from the start I wanted to work in magazines. The glossy pages full of glamour, celebrities, creative people and the prospect of seeing your name in print drew me to become a magazine journalist. I had big aspirations and was willing to work hard to get there.
Now, as a bleak graduate I’m a little more on the sceptical side. After completing numerous internships without a sniff of a job, I’m beginning to think, have I just wasted my time, energy and money completing these internships? I enjoyed them but I never managed to nab a job whilst on the job, so to speak. Enthusiastic, outgoing, hard working I tried my best and still, nada. Likewise when applying for jobs, I’ve been on the hunt for paid internships, which like I mentioned before are like gold dust. I dread to think how many applications there are for those prized paid internships.
Just because I was an intern, does not necessarily mean I approve of the ethics of internships. I knew where I wanted to go and if internships were what you had to do to get there, then so be it. Work experience has always existed in magazines and newspapers as a route to getting a job. However, it was usually short term, a chance to experience first hand what it was like to work as a journalist.
It was only until American TV shows like The Hills glamorized long term internships that the trend of three month, six month internships spread to the UK. Before, it may have only been top end magazines taking on work experience but now it is smaller companies in the media that are utilizing the desperation of graduates to their advantage.
Smaller companies, who have no intention of giving a job to an intern at the end of their well earned stint as their company simply cannot afford them. So every few months they take on an intern to perform a would be junior assistant position. Or perhaps they could budget an extra person, but choose not to as well, why pay someone when they can get somebody else to do it for free? Overall, internships create a vicious cycle that narrows graduates hopes of getting that first job.
For a job at a glamorous magazine, most employees have undertaken work experience for a considerable amount of time. It’s just the way it is, I was told a year of interning if you wanted to hit the big time was sufficient. But what I was more shocked to find was that the trend was not limited to the media, but recruitment services like Reed, who had an internship programme for everyday positions like, “intern receptionist”, “secretarial admin internship”- ACTUAL JOB ROLES for NO MONEY. So now, big name companies are cashing in on the mentality of “experience” for everyday job roles.
Experience is the buzz word of the moment. Of course, as a graduate who was told to read Jane Austen and write 3,000 word essays I do not have the experience of being a receptionist. But for anyone starting out, the only way to gain experience is to be given that first job. In this financial climate, employers either do not want to take that risk or would rather take the choice of the older, more experienced candidate.
As a first- jobber myself, I often look on job sites to find a brilliant position with a checklist that I can happily tick off, experience within consumer magazines? Tick. Listed qualities? Tick. Only to see the salary cleverly labelled as DOE, is actually “travel expenses will be paid”, groaan.
Job sites are usually either scattered with unpaid internships, or job positions that require years of experience. As Jon O said, “we’re in first job limbo”, too experienced for an internship, but obviously not experienced enough for a senior position. The in-betweener jobs you could call them, are hard to come by and when they do swing your way are overcrowded with desperate graduate applications or more experienced unemployed journo’s who have previously lost their job. Competition is strife, so that only the best (read most educated, experienced, connected) candidates stand out.
The big question is: if there were fewer unpaid internships would there be more jobs? Do employers use unpaid interns instead of a paid junior member of staff to cut costs? Or say, if internships were banned would the company simply stretch their workload and work without the extra person? I do wonder what happened before the trend of long term internships - my Gran said back in the ‘olden days’ instead of an internship I would be in a junior position.
The debate goes on, check out The Entrepreneur’s post on the Etsio placements where you have to shockingly “pay” for an internship and also, graduate fog www.graduatefog.co.uk the website which reveals even Tesco has been taking on “shelf stacking Interns”.
So, what do you think? Are internships causing unemployment amongst the youth? Or would we be in a worst state without them? Tweet us @wannabehacks or comment below to continue the debate.
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