Unpaid internships have brought forth a plethora of heated debates over the past few years- cries of 'it's unfair' 'it's slave labour' have been at the forefront of discussion both within the media and within personal discussion. And whilst in some cases I would agree this is true, if conducted in the correct form, unpaid internships can actually be one of the best things you will ever do. I speak from experience here, and can safely say without my internship when I eighteen years old I would most likely not be in the fortunate situation I am in today...
I worked for an online fashion and lifestyle magazine in London, where I had the chance to write over 200 articles, attend fashion events and parties and interview some of the most interesting people I have ever met. Whilst I was not paid in monetary value, I feel the experience I gained to be of much more benefit than a £30 wage which would most likely have been splurged on unnecessary footwear that before long would be condemned to a life at the bottom of an already brimming closet.
Whilst an unpaid position can undoubtedly seem brutal, it can be a powerful indication to future employees of the length of dedication you are willing to put forth for a job. Whereby paid positions can attract both the dedicated and the dabblers- those whom are actually seeking employment in a given vs those who are simply unemployed and looking for money in a job they are vaguely interested in- unpaid internships require a quantifiable amount of dedication. I for one, would not get out of bed for free for a position I was not highly passionate about.
I found my internship an ideal way to test my commitment to the industry. Whilst a paid position would allow me an insight, it would also be significantly harder to leave if I realised that it was not infact the job sector that I would like to spend my days working in. My position gave me the opportunity to dip my toe into the journalism and editorial waters without being obligated to jump into the deep end and swim, or even paddle up to my ankles. I found myself immersed in the fantastic and fabulous working world, something which I would not have been able to experience otherwise whilst I was still in college.For three months I attended college to complete my A-Levels four days a week, before heading up to London on my remaining free day. I found myself more motivated and inspired to reach my career goal than I ever had before, and knew what I needed to do in order to achieve my goal. After these three months were up, I had finished my A-Levels and decided to change my days in London to full time, working as a coffee shop assistant at the weekend to pay for my way. Although many would probably frown upon this, I was truly revelling in the experience, loving each second of working towards my goal.
I made numerous valuable contacts too- a lot of which I still keep in contact with today.The PR's, designers, models and other figures I was in regular contact with, I still work with on my own venture Seen in the City today- showing just how important an early position can be when it comes to future employment.
This said, I have heard of horrific internship experiences- people simply being called "Intern" and having to sit on the floor, or being stuck in a sorting cupboard all week without talking to anyone, or the biggest responsibility given was to make the teas and fetch the post. I think that if done correctly and if you are given valuable experience and a real insight into the working world, and if you are treated with the respect you deserve, unpaid internships can be the best thing you've ever done.
What are your experiences of internships? If you've completed them, how long did you do so for? Was it rewarding? Please let me know, I would love to hear your stories...