Internships for the young only available to those with rich daddies

Yesterday a columnist in the Business section of The Times said that so many people in the UK are exploited when they do internships at various organisations. There’s an acceptance that they are asked to work in return for little, if any pay, with a slim hope that it might further their career prospects down the track. I have to agree with this view.

When I first arrived in the UK I was shocked to see how willing people were to give up months of their lives for no money, with the dim hope that the company might employ them eventually. This was especially true with those working in the journalism and fashion industries.

With competitive careers it seemed that the only way to get into the industry was by relying on the chance to prove yourself – for free. In Australia it is certain that those with more work experience than others are more likely to get ahead, but as a general rule you don’t really work for longer than two weeks in a placemen, or one month at a push.

When I got over here it was expected of me that I get some UK work experience to get my foot in the door. The freelancing for free was okay and I’m still doing it because I enjoy it. However, I also worked at another media ‘workshop’ where I just retyped media releases all day and that was bloody tedious. I eventually gave it up because I thought that it was pointless – I was already experienced and there was no promise of a job there in the middle of the recession (not that I would’ve wanted to work for that company anyway).

Thankfully, I had my boyfriend who was willing to support me for two days a week, while I slogged my ass off for free. Others are not so lucky.

I think it is unreasonable for so many workplaces to demand that we have a CV full of UK internships when we go for job interviews. From the age of 18, many of us have to fend for ourselves, and those that are still privileged enough to live at home and have a part time job to fund their social life should count themselves lucky.

For the rest of us, starting out in the big bad world can be hard enough. If you moved out of home at a young age you’re often forced to pay the rent on crappy first jobs. Many do not have the option of working for free for an extended period of time, in order to get a job at the end of it.

If you’re unlucky enough not to have a rich mummy or daddy to help you along the way, it seems as though internships are only really targeted towards those coming from middle and upper-class backgrounds. I am forced to admit, I fall under this category, as I was able to live at home during my university degree.

Recently at Tatler magazine, a bidding war resulted in a rich daddy paying £50,000 for his daughter to work an internship at the publication. Are these the kind of ‘hard-working’ people we want in the working world? Someone who can’t even get a work placement off their own back?


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