MyDaily Discusses: The Highs And Lows Of Unpaid Internships

14/08/2014 16:32 | Updated 22 May 2015

When one of Britain's most famous fashion houses advertised for an unpaid intern to join its team for 11 MONTHS, it didn't go unnoticed.

In fact, Shelly Asquith, the student union president of University of the Arts London, got so angry about Alexander McQueen's advert she wrote to head office to file a complaint.

Since this news broke, the fashion label has apologised. A spokesperson made the following statement to the Huffington Post: "The advertisement in question was issued in error and was not in accordance with our HR policy, for which we apologise".

Mistake or not, unpaid internships are still offered to eager job-seekers all over the UK. Then there's the issue of how interns get treated once they land the role. (Amy Weiner's spokeswomen called her former intern a "slutbag". Nice).

So - internships get you a foot in the door, but are they worth it?


Sara McCorquodale, 30, MyDaily Editor, on working for nothing...

Here's my life as an intern in numbers:

17 - the age I started interning.

5 - years I spent as an intern.

11 - number of newspapers and magazines I worked at for free.

2 - number of friends-for-life I made while interning.

11 - number of times I was told I'd NEVER get a job in journalism.

2 - scars I have on my hands from fetching - and spilling - coffee for editors.

3 - times I was told by editors my Scottish accent was incomprehensible.

3 - number of part-time jobs I did simultaneously throughout university to pay for my interning habit.

14 - number of hours I worked on average each day as an intern.

0 - amount of money I was ever paid.

Katie Jones, 26, MyDaily's Deputy Editor, remembers a life living on travel expenses...

When I found out I'd secured a three month unpaid internship at a successful online fashion retailer, I was jumping for joy. I'd got myself a job in an actual office! I didn't even care about the salary bit at the time. In fact, I still feel pretty smug about the whole thing. Mostly because I managed to live in London without earning anything more than the money to pay for my travelcard. That still baffles me now.

Any more than a couple of weeks is a long time to be working full time in an office without getting paid. However, in a competitive industry in the midst of a recession, what's a graduate to do?

I was lucky - I was only asked to make the tea on one occasion (it was for a VIP designer and I was terrified I might tip the teacup all over him) but looking back, the value of this experience had nothing to do with power or financial reward. Instead it helped to get me my next internship (a paid one) and it got me moving up the career ladder. Do I regret spending three months working without any money? No. Do I think employees should pay for long-term interns? Yes.

Ellen Stewart, 23, MyDaily's Celebrity Writer has done her fair share of unpaid interning...

If there's one thing I know well it's the trials, tribulations and that sinking feeling when you check your bank balance that comes with being an unpaid intern. Upon last count I've done one, two, three... NINE unpaid stints. I blame the recession.

There was always the promise of a paid job at the end, but the reality was (is), why on earth would they pay you when they could get someone else in for free?

While I started off as the tea girl - I even had "expert brew-maker" on my CV - I eventually had as much responsibility as a fully-fledged member of staff. The only difference was I was on expenses which just about covered my travel costs and they took home the dollar every month.

It was hard to stay motivated going from one unpaid position to the next, but I knew what I wanted and I wanted it SO badly I was prepared to do anything. Also the little voice in my head told me it wasn't forever and that I would succeed.

Daisy Sitch, 25, MyDaily's Style Writer enjoyed the perks of being a junior food writer...

The interning game can be tough crack - seriously I've heard some real horror stories and that's before we start talking unpaid. That said, my personal experience during uni summer hols (first and second year) was actually all good. The gig? A food magazine - Fine Food Digest - based back in my Dorset hometown.

Pretty low key yes - but writing news features on the latest in specialty food and drink, the taste tests (OH-SO GOOD) and the liaising with little local independents was a nice snapshot into the editorial world I was hungry for.

The peoples? AMAZING. Not a scary-suited-potty-mothed-Daily-Mail type in sight.

The intern role is to suck it up - the less interesting stuff, the patronising/ dismissive tones, the tea making - we bear all that because we need the experience, the connections, the CV bulk. And sometimes that means going without a pay cheque at the end of the month - I guess I was ok with the yummy freebies and the occasional lift home.


Suggest a correction