source: film jabber
Not long ago, I stumbled across an advertisement from Amsterdam skate brand Patta looking for interns. I can’t say I have ever had a passion for skate wear or even wanted to work within the fashion industry, but my curiosity got the better of me and I thought I would check it out. Now, maybe it was a bit presumptuous of me to think that such a large company would be offering valuable experience within head office or their design studio. However, never did I think that somewhere would have the audacity to be offering a 6 month unpaid sales assistant internship. But unfortunately this is the exploitive reality many students, and even graduates, face today.
Okay you might be thinking Patta is a somewhat extreme example, as they are hiring free labor under the guise of “job training”, but it’s happening everywhere. The competition for our future careers gets tougher every year, with degrees simply not cutting it anymore and experience being more important than ever. And when the competition is so cut-throat, why would companies pay to mentor their future workforce when there will always be someone willing to do it for free, just for the sake of their CV? Of course it’s legally and morally questionable, but from a business’ point of view, it does makes financial sense.
All a bit depressing right? Well lets be honest, it’s all well and good saying “let’s all boycott internships until it’s fair”, but when you’re up against the elite who have contacts and money, you’re basically screwed. So until the UK finally get around to banning this practice, here are some tips to get the most out of your experience and give you hope for the future.
Look for paid internships. I know this may sound unheard of, if like me you’re used to seeing ‘Travel expenses covered only’ within every advert, but surprise, surprise they are actually a thing. Some organisations, like Greenpeace, offer opportunities for paid internships as long as you dedicate full time for the course of 3 months or so. Just takes some searching…
Make your expectations clear. To avoid being taken for a mug and spending a month doing the most menial tasks for little to no appreciation, make it clear in your cover letter what you’re hoping to get out of the internship. By stating it clearly from the get go, you’re already letting them know what a strong character you are and won’t suffer fools gladly. Just make sure this is worded so you don’t come across as arrogant, as they don’t have to take you on.
Do your research. Your best source of company information is within their social media, and says a lot about them. Are they posting proud photos of their interns? Any mention of job advertisement? Are they churning through naive students like it’s going out of fashion? Has anyone tweeted about completing an internship at your desired company? A PR agency I interned with over the summer were very particular about how many interns they hired, making sure they could really give them their undivided attention and a valuable experience. This definitely showed on social media, with the company singing each interns praises after involving them within the workforce, rather than being a spare part.
Promote. If you are lucky enough to have a successful, paid internship then tell the world. The likelihood is, if people spread the word about these positive experiences, companies may just follow suit and break the chain. Wishful thinking, but companies love a good bandwagon!