The internship paradox

Sam Wigglesworth

messy desk

It’s that age old problem, you can’t get a job without experience, but nobody is willing to hire you so you can’t get it. Internships, it has been proposed are a solution to this catch-22 problem. However, they’re not accessible to everyone, for two key reasons.

Firstly, given that many internships require students or graduates working for long periods of time, usually for free, it’s not an opportunity that many can afford.  However, recent debate and campaigns that have been ignited by the National Union of Students and Labour’s Hazel Blears which have been attempting to deal with this issue, by dealing with the grey areas in the law that allow for the promotion of the advertising of unpaid internships, and highlighting what your rights actually are with regards to any internship that you may undertake.

Secondly, internships or placements are still an elite sector, proven most notably by the Conservatives ‘auction’ of internships in 2011 which has now lead to the perceived legitimacy of the practice, with fundraising events holding hundreds of internship auctions. And it’s not just in the United Kingdom; the US website CharityBuzz sold one internship at Vogue for $42 500 in 2010.  Meanwhile, there’s the accusation that the selection for an internship is elite in itself; top banks and businesses looking for an Oxbridge watermark before letting anyone through to the next stage.  Meanwhile, despite Clegg’s attempt in 2011 to end the practice of informal internships at Whitehall in an attempt to improve social mobility seems to have bore little fruit, as a quick Google search turned up nothing (and it’s rare that Google ever fails anyone) And you can call me cynical, but I find it hard to believe people will stop calling in favours for loved ones to get that ever so elusive experience.

However, in defence of the internship, there are three reasons why it is worth all the fuss, and this is coming from a student who has been rejected from at least one dream internship.

  1. It is a fantastic way to gain contacts in the industry, company, occupation you desire to be in. Especially if you don’t know anybody in that field. Sure, it’s hard to get one, but once you do and providing you make a good impression, it can only be good for you.
  2. It is something that increases your chances of getting hired once University is complete and you enter the real world and accept adult life (somewhat begrudgingly no doubt)
  3. Finally, it’s a great way to figure out if the job you’ve dreamt of doing is really worth all of the fuss.

So should people just throw in the towel if they possess neither parent in their field of choice and only a lowly Russell Group University stamp?  I could be idealistic here, but I still believe that an internship is better than none. In addition to this, even though the odds may be against you with regards to getting one, they’re almost certainly stacked higher if you don’t even apply.


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