A simple search of the internship/work experience category on Pedestrian Jobs reveals hundreds upon hundreds of results, each boasting the unrivalled opportunity for the ‘right candidate’ (read: prospective doormat) to get a foot in the door of their dream job. There’s just one catch. Salary: $0.
With youth unemployment reaching an unprecedented average of 12.4 per cent, more and more young people are turning to unpaid internships in a last ditch effort to bolster their career prospects. In many industries, most commonly the creative arts, interning is fast becoming par for the course.
But is it really worth it for that throwaway line on your resume?
When I first reached out for people to come forward with their experiences, I received some pretty harrowing tales. People who’d been relegated to the role of coffee-runner, several who’d wound up answering phones all day, and, believe it or not, even someone who’d been left to amuse themself with colouring books.
Perhaps even more worrying than this unscrupulous division of labour are the countless stories of those who carry out legitimate, revenue generating responsibilities in exchange for squat. In its outspoken article, The Hoopla even reports instances where interns have been billed out at hundreds of dollars an hour, without ever seeing a dime for their efforts.
The fact of the matter is that not all internships are created equal, and many of those who eagerly volunteer themselves as free labourers find themselves at the mercy of disorganisation, humiliation and exploitation.
So what can we do about it?