I’ve been encouraging my clients to get unpaid work experience, now called Internships, as a means of developing their skills and gaining relevant work experience to increase their chance of success with job applications.
My view of unpaid work experience, is as something you would do for a few weeks, where you would do supervised work and actually learn and develop. Possibly not even full time, as 2 days a week unpaid work over 3 months could be a brilliant addition to a CV and can also help to test drive if a career is something that you should really give your all to try and move into, better to find now that the reality doesn’t match your thoughts.
For years I’ve been hearing from clients that certain careers demand a year or more of unpaid work experience, from George who wanted to work as a lobbyist to Rachael trying to get work in TV, others seeking work in fashion and PR, George and Rachael were unable to work for nothing and had to adjust their plans. George was also interested in advertising and is doing really well. Rachael has a job in another industry, not exactly what she wanted to do but she could segue into a job within a TV company with a bit of creative thinking and an upturn in the economic climate.
There are quite a few stories from interns such as this one from Sarah Geraghty.
The media today refer to Alan Milburn’s idea to offer all young people the sort of internship that the well off can offer their offspring, but I can’t seen this happening. Even if some form of payment was available, you still need to find these opportunities, and there’s a lot of competition for even unpaid work.
Paid internships are available – see Graduate Talent Pool and Wexo but the opportunities listed include many that are unpaid, or just with expenses covered.
Many people think you have to go to London to take up these Internships, and for some careers this will be true, but you could still look to create your own opportunity local to where you live.
Here’s what I suggest to my clients:
Recently read in the nespaper that 128,000 pople have worked as interns for British businesses this summer, for less than the minium wage or no wage at all. Some companies don’t even pay travel expenses.
Why would a company employ someone if they can get someone to work for free? But this is taking advantage of young people if they are doing an actual job that in other circumstances would have been undertaken by a paid employee.
However, in some circumstances it is more like training and an opportunity to gain relevant work experience. In which case an agreement should be reached so both sides know what to expect and young people are not taken advantage of. I am totally against people working for 6-12 months unpaid, within a month or so surely they are adding sufficient value to be paid?