Sunday, 6 January 2013

Unpaid Vs Paid Internships

The people I've met, the events I've organised and the publications I've written for whilst interning in the media and entertainment business for the past 2 years has been fantastic. But even when supposed 'travel expenses' are rarely refunded, being an unpaid intern gets old. Fast.

Getting a job in this industry is extremely hard, as is portrayed by Lena Dunham's character in 'Girls'. Having parents constantly in your ear about finding a 'proper job', living of baked beans and gritting your teeth through backhanded comments by snobby co-workers is validated atrociously by the fact that many employers take advantage of interns. 'This position is unpaid, but will look great on your CV' mentioned about 90% of the vacancies I have clicked on in the past- And my CV does indeed looks fabulous now thank you very much. However the moral dilemma of being a hard-working intern in this business eats you up at times. It's on that long ass train ride back home from central London at 11.30 pm or being shoved up against the door on the tube under someone's sweaty armpit, holding the 'fragile' parcel with dear life that you're meant to deliver to a fashion house that you wonder why in the world you're not getting paid. It's outrageous and companies offering full time unpaid internships for 6 months, are taking advantage of a bright eager intern in my eyes.  Believe me, in this business a week is enough to suss out whether an intern is reliable or not and pay should be an incredible incentive to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Talking about 'bright eager interns', I would also like to point out that many employers automatically label every single intern that comes through their doors as 'inexperienced'. They should sit down with you and assess your past experiences, strengths and weaknesses. In the past few months, I've had internships where I've been offered the position based on my covering letter and CV alone- and while I feel proud of myself for having a great CV, I would have still expected an interview. Even when I've started my internships in the past after an email offer (which I suspect has been on a first come first served basis) I expect them to ask me about my experiences in the office. Many times, I have been left sitting there doing nothing and when asked if anyone needed any help, I would be asked to load the dishwasher, fetch some coffee or tape some parcels. Barely 'valuable experience' which these internships promote.

I also have a bone to pick with misleading internship offers. I recently said 'no' to an internship offer, that offered a salary with the position. Being invited to an interview, I was excited at the thought of possibly nabbing a lucrative paid internship. At the interview I asked about pay, and was straight up told there would be no pay because they couldn't 'afford' to pay interns. I should have spoken up at the time, but when they emailed me to start this New Year, I confronted them about the misleading information in the job vacancy. They denied the claims and suggested I must have mistook the vacancy for another. I'm not stupid.

Another time, I was browsing through a popular media job site where I saw a couple internships advertised as glossy 'paid internships'. Excitedly clicking on the vacancies, I discovered that their version of a 'paid internship' was handing out £10 a week. Appalling. That doesn't even cover travel expenses. I will be contacting similar 'paid internship' vacancies like this in the future to talk about the issue at hand. 

I am more than ready for a real job in this field and I'm glad I didn't take on the last internship, otherwise I would keep going round in circles. Internships can be incredibly valuable if utilised in the right way and if the people you work with genuinely care. I've dealt with all sorts of employers, so I'm clued up about the people that will just use interns and those who'll end up being a contact for years to come. It's important for potential and current interns to understand that asking about pay does not mean you have crossed the line. They have all the right in the world to ask. Especially if you end up loading someone's dishwasher- you definitely deserve to get paid for that shit.


1 comment

  1. About time someone said something, more of us need to speak up then maybe employers offering misleading "paid" internships with little more than dishwasher experience will fix up, start paying and appreciate as the force behind the little jobs they personally dislike themselves. x


Drop me your thoughts !

© Jabeen Waheed | All rights reserved.
Blog Design Handcrafted by pipdig