I’ve been meaning to do a post like this for a while, but I’ve always decided against it fearing that I’d come off badly or other interns wouldn’t agree with what I said, but now I’ve changed my mind. I’ve seen hundreds of tweets from interns and people looking to intern, and there seems to be a vast range of opinions on the subject, so here’s mine.
I have had some of the most fantastic experiences as an intern, and yes I have been extremely fortunate with the placements I’ve managed to secure, but this is not necessarily why I’ve ended up gaining so much from each one. I am a firm believer that you get out of something what you put in, and interning is no exception. Yes it’s hard work, yes it can be extremely frustrating and yes sometimes you are doing the really rubbish jobs BUT don’t assume that what you’re doing goes unnoticed. As long as you are doing every task to the best of your ability, really getting stuck in and showing an active interest in the company, people will recognise and appreciate this. Be proactive, take initiative and more importantly, demonstrate that you have some sort of common sense.
I’ve spoken to nearly every single one of my employers about past interns in an attempt to understand what not to do and how to make sure I do a better job, and every single one has mentioned at least one intern who showed no interest in taking responsibility, failed to demonstrate common sense and basically ended up appearing lazy. This poor intern could have been the brightest and the best, but if they failed to engage with other members of the team then it comes off really badly and people remember that. You might also want to keep in mind that you’ll be going to some of these people for references when it comes to the full time jobs!
The bottom line is, if you want a great internship, be prepared to work hard, because in the end, that will always pay off. This is my motto, and it’s working so far…
Just remember to keep going, believe me I know it’s tough, but you will get there. I have to remind myself of this constantly, but it’s true. Everyone gets their break when they deserve it, just remember your end goal and strive for it. I’m trying to say all of this without sounding condescending but I fear it might be coming out that way so apologies!
Now here’s the real issue – payment. I have not had any income in a year, excluding expenses and that is a very difficult life to lead. I’m lucky enough to live in South London but I know this isn’t the case for a vast majority, so do I think interns should be paid? Of course. National minimum wage at least. Expenses are great, although I’ve done internships when I didn’t even get that, but it’s living on nothing, and a lot of the tasks and jobs I’ve done over the past year, I believe I would have been paid for had I been doing the same thing five, six years ago. But times have changed and the economic climate is dreadful so companies are trying to save money and hire interns. The truth is there will always be someone willing to work for free to get where they want to be and that’s where the trouble starts because this is only a tiny minority and not fair to everybody else who is willing to work just as hard. I’m backing UK Fashion Intern on Twitter to promote paid internships and maybe if we all do that then there’s more chance of things changing.
For anyone that’s interested, my backlog of internships goes something like this – Cosmopolitan Magazine, Jonathan Saunders Head Office, Fred Perry Head Office, Starworks London Fashion PR plus various online publications that I contribute to as well as this blog. I’m still interning, although I definitely feel ready to take on the big full time job, I’m just hoping that now is my time!