Christian Dior, one of the world’s leading names in fashion, has advertised a six-month internship at its office in London – but along with some controversial applicant requirements.
The ‘reception internship’ requires both “less than two years” work experience, specifically experience working on a reception desk, which is apparently “essential”, and that English is the applicant’s first language. Along with these interesting prerequisites, the multi-billion dollar industry will only be paying the intern minimum wage due to “budgetary constraints”.
With these minor details in mind, the big question would be: is this “internship” really an internship at all?
Tanya de Grunwald, the founder of graduate careers blog Graduate Fog, investigated these questionable aspects of the position and after eventually receiving a rather unsatisfactory reply from Christian Dior Couture, wrote about the position and how it reflects the growing trend with internships.
“This is a good example of how a growing number of employers are crowbarring the word 'internship' into job titles as a sneaky way to depress and distort applicants' salary expectations. If this advert did not feature the word 'internship', I would expect it to pay £16-£18,000 a year, not minimum wage. It is a front desk, customer-facing role at one of the world's most prestigious fashion houses, in one of the most exclusive parts of London. It's clear there is a great deal of responsibility involved.”
The job description included a long list of tasks that ranged from “order[ing] food and drink for business and training meetings” to “oversee[ing] the national and international courier collection from Head Office.”
“'Internship' also suggests to me that the role may be a springboard job into something better. I would like to know if that is true. Has anyone ever moved from this role into a proper job in fashion? In my opinion, the current wording is designed to appeal to young jobseekers hoping to build a career in fashion. If that is not possible, it is misleading.”
After inquiring about the minimum wage payment in her email, de Grunwald was told by the brand that they are subject to certain “budgetary constraints” which “do have an impact on decisions made” with regards to rates of pay.
Despite the fact that the intern would be paid no more than minimum wage, it could be argued that Christian Dior Couture is doing their intern a favor by paying them, especially considering the alternative – an unpaid internship. However, De Grunwald disagrees with this argument, stating that the concept of an intern working the front desk in Central London of one of most prestigious fashion industries completely unpaid is “disgusting.”
“The idea that anybody would be impressed that a global, luxury label pays the minimum wage rather than nothing at all just goes to show how low our expectations of the fashion industry are nowadays. The industry should be ashamed of how it has manipulated the expectations of its young talent.”
However confusing the advertisement seems to be, this is only one example of which contributes to the befuddlement of the term “internship.” De Grunwald suggests defining the position more clearly as to give the viewer a better understanding of what it entails, and what it can lead to in the future.
“I would like to know if anyone has ever moved from this role into a proper job in fashion. If not, remove the word internship, so it's clearly a six-month, temporary 'receptionist / office manager' job, paying minimum wage, which just happens to be at a fashion house.”