It is a well-publicised fact that these days, to secure a career in most industries and most certainly the media, you need to have experience within the field in order to get your foot on the ladder for your dream career. Gone are the days of purely working your way up from the bottom in an assistant position. Needing this additional experience, rather than purely learning on the job can be exasperating. More exasperating in fact, when you’re already sending off a hundred and one job applications each and every day. Unfortunately, it seems that the only way to get an in for an interview is to obtain the dreaded internship. An internship which is often unpaid.
Internships have received bad press because of the ethical problems surrounding working a normal working week for free. Effectively, you become the corporation’s skivvy, for no money, to ‘learn’ and at the end of the day get a company’s name on your CV. This does not sound appealing, but when it is the only opportunity you will get to an entry level position in the career you truly want to break into, you’d be surprised at how willingly you will be to accept unpaid work.
Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson nailing the the interview process. Image The Internship
I, myself, have done the grand sum of three unpaid internships. One of them, I was effectively a glorified tea maid and lunch-runner. One, I whiled away hours on the internet because there was nothing to do, despite multiple appeals by me for tasks to do. One was actually really informative and I feel that I actually experienced the benefits that an internship proposes: knowledge of the industry. A quick bit of maths therefore concludes that out of a grand sum of 210 unpaid hours, approximately 70 were worth my while. 33%.
However, interning has its upsides. Often, an unpaid opportunity leads onto a paid venture. I have done a paid placement on the merit of an unpaid placement. I have also been heartily encouraged and supported to apply for a paid position within the same company after completing an unpaid position. You also do get to have a feel for the working environment you’re in and whether it could potentially fulfil the criteria of your dream position. It can also help you to figure out if you were actually disillusioned all along, and maybe this isn’t the best career option for you. Which is better to do before contracts are signed!
Not quite clicking at Google. Image The Internship
If you have decided that yes, you could potentially accept unpaid work, despite it being morally unethical and seemingly exploitative, it isn’t that simple to land an internship. A lot of other people have also reached this conclusion, which means that competition for these internships is almost as fierce as it is for the actual jobs themselves. So how do you go about gaining this golden experience? Apply for as many internships as possible. Send your CV with a tailored covering letter. And don’t give up. The more persistent you are, the more chances you’ll have to receive a yes.
Competition is stiff Stand out – for the right reasons. Image The Internship
In order to work for your dream prestigious firm, particularly within creative industries, internships are becoming increasingly expected and a fundamental part of your CV. The future is turning, where now there are more and more paid internships becoming available and they are, slowly but surely, becoming the norm. Going by my personal experience, I would say grab any opportunity you can with both hands. Yes, you may be a tea maid. Yes, it might be a bit boring. But if you get to experience the working environment and (if you’re lucky) end up in a really informative and inclusive department you WILL learn. Most importantly, you’ll have the golden name on your CV, ready for applying for the real deal. Good luck!
By Jessica Moffatt-Owen