It’s something you never consider when coming to uni, or I didn’t anyway, working for free. You study for three years and become good at what you want to do, you even get a neat little certificate and a ceremony to tell you and your nearest and dearest you are good at it.
It’s a creative thing, mainly, the unpaid internship. An elephant in the study room, a whisper on lecturers lips and a very real problem for graduates.
I recently applied for my dream job, writing online content for an extreme sports company. It was a five minute train ride away, working with great people, and it was something I really knew I would be great at.
I got an interview and even ironed my special ‘I need to look smart’ shirt for it. Arrived half an hour early and had a coffee in the cafe opposite the office. I was told my interview would be an informal chat where my interviewer would try and get to know me, see if I would fit into the company, nothing to worry about.
After a very shaky 20 minutes that felt like 20 hours, I left what can only be described as the interview of a creative persons nightmare. An interview featuring a surprise guest that was the CEO of the company, and a potential job molding into a unpaid internship with no chance of a job at the end right before my eyes, but the experience would look GREAT on my CV.
As I walked back to my 5 minute train ride I had to do some math, how long can I survive with no income? A question I’m sure most graduates have had to ask themselves at some point.
Because of my “lack of experience” my work is still deemed worthless. Regardless of my degree, my portfolio, my previous internships, my work is still not deemed worthy of pay.
Agreeing to an unpaid internship is agreeing that your work isn’t worth anything.
Graduates, we haven’t paid tens of thousands on degrees to be told our work isn’t worth anything, we haven’t given up three years of our lives to not be able to put a roof over our heads or feed ourselves, we haven’t worked our asses off to be told that work still isn’t worth a penny.
Please don’t be scared to let go of your dream job because it means you won’t be able to survive. Don’t be scared to tell someone their offer is offensive. Don’t be scared to stick up for yourself.
I did. (And I’m doing great.)