Thursday, 30 January 2014

unpaid internships and my life, an update

About a year and a half ago now, I wrote a cheerfully optimistic post about unpaid work and my future. What I seemed to be getting at in that entry was that proper volunteering (ie, you do it voluntarily, no set hours, not replacing a paid person) is a good thing yet I seem to gloss over the exploitation of unpaid workpeople (I won't call them volunteers) that is rampant in this country. I tried to ignore it at the time, but it is a real problem. I too applied for unpaid internships and went to interviews for them, but now I've grown up a bit, the thought of working for the entitled Baby Boomer generation for free just makes me feel a bit sick.

Let's not kid ourselves. The reason why unpaid internships are so proliferate is that in today's world of automation and efficiency, there simply are not enough jobs to go around. Having a few months of unpaid experience under your belt makes it easier for firms to discriminate between equally qualified individuals to fill a limited number of jobs. So that's what makes Brendan O'Neill's article "Why Interns Don't Deserve Pay" all the more ridiculous; Resilient working-class kids have for years topped up their internships with Saturday jobs or evening work, while kipping on a friend’s couch to cut outgoings he writes. Okay so let's imagine for a second that we all have friends with sofas in London we can stay on (not likely, most landlords seem to have converted living rooms into an extra bedroom but I said just imagine it) and we've all managed to find bar jobs that fit perfectly with unpaid internships. All of us, every single graduate. So then what? We're in exactly the same position as we were before, equally qualified graduates which are impossible to discriminate from. Maybe then young people will do more unpaid work; maybe more senior levels in companies will become unpaid. First we had academic inflation, now we have "experience inflation". It's not sustainable and it's frankly ridiculous.

So what am I doing now? I quit my job with an MEP and moved to London without a job after saving a fuck load of money to try and fulfil the romantic dream of "making it" in the city. I could have done an unpaid internship to tart up my CV I suppose, but I think I would have died inside a bit. To end on a slightly sombre note, I have ended up working in a pub despite being here for 6 months. I have been to interviews for jobs which pay what I would consider fair remuneration, but to no avail - however I shall see what the future holds. Perhaps I should add that I no longer care about having a degree-relevant career and I certainly don't want to work for an MP anymore - yuck!

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