Ah the great intern debate. The ‘benefits’ VS the ‘exploitation.’ The people who say they’d NEVER work for free VS the people who are so desperate to get a foot in the door, they’d do anything. The fans VS the haters. The positives VS the negatives.
It’s not uncommon these days for universities to encourage students to undertake an internship – some courses even make it a required subject. For many fields these days, a university degree is simply not enough. Many jobs in the media field, for example, will expect workers to already have one or two years experience in the chosen field. As the intern economy grows however, an important question seems to constantly be posed: when does an internship stop being mutually beneficial, and start becoming free labour?
I’ve been interning for two years now, for numerous companies in the fields of PR and journalism. Have I felt like I’ve gained invaluable experience? Yes. Have I felt like I’ve wasted my time at some places? Yes. Have I had thoughts where I thought studying media was a complete and utter waste of my time, and I should just invest in pole-dancing lessons and go by the name of ‘Candy Sparkles‘? … Yes.
By rough calculation since my time as an intern I have spent over $1200 in travel expenses alone. That doesn’t include buying lunches, coffees, running errands involving my car and petrol or buying appropriate ‘office’ clothes to wear. One internship I used to drive to, two days a week, due to lack of public transport.
In around four months, I blew over $900 on petrol, which included driving around running errands. Another internship, I commuted for 2 hours there, and 2 hours back – resulting in over $300 spend on train fares alone. Many days I’d wake up at 5.30 am, and return home at 7.30pm. It’s a long day for no pay, but sometimes you just have to go that extra mile.
I worked holidays to support myself through university, live 4.5 hours from my hometown and while I have enjoyed the benefits like youth allowance, I can assure you that will barely cover rent, food and travel costs.
Needless to say, I have a MASSIVE problem when people bag out generation Y for being lazy, self-entitled or not good with their money.
I also have a massive problem when older people express distaste that so many people around my age bracket willingly work for free. On social media recently, I’ve seen many comments where people say that they’d ‘NEVER write for free, because their words and opinion are worth something.’