Interning. It can be exciting, rewarding and highly beneficial in elevating you closer to that dream job you’ve always wanted. Hopefully it can also make you stand out from the crowd on your CV, amongst a sea of other art graduates and creative students.
However, internships can also be stressful, costly and extremely time consuming. Libby Page of Guardian Students gave us her top tips at Free Thinking, on finding the best internships and what to do if it all goes horribly wrong.
From Page’s CV it is evident that she has had her fair share of internship experience, from interning with various magazines and newspapers. This feisty writer is a driven campaigner for the group ‘Intern Aware’, set up to provide better rights for people during internships and encourage employers to stamp out unpaid internships altogether. She has even campaigned recently at London Fashion Week, featured on TV and written an article on the success story of an intern that sued Alexander McQueen for being treated unfairly. The student won.
Page said that, “A good internship should be structured, have reasonable working hours and must be paid at least the National Minimum wage. If you are doing real work and set hours you should be paid the minimum wage. The exception to the rule is if the internship is part of your course and contributes towards your grade; then this can be unpaid work. Internships should also not be confused with volunteering and work experience."
If the internship specification highlights words such as ‘unpaid’, ‘travel expenses only’, involves a contract asking you to agree to being unpaid, or doesn’t mention being paid work altogether, then raise the issue. You are entitled to payment and can ask to be paid even if they outline in writing that you are not a ‘worker’.
Be wary of the hours outlined e.g. ‘minimum of 2 days a week’ is very unclear. Does that actually mean 2 days a week or 2-7 days a week? How long for?
Query it if their required skill sets are very specific e.g. ‘higher education essential’. This indicates an incredible amount of responsibility and pressure may be put on you.
‘You’ll be asked to provide insight and ideas’- do not let them steal your ideas for nothing.
You can even report bad, illegal or unpaid internships to the ‘Intern Aware’ campaign website and you can call the Government number ‘Pay and Work Helpline’ for any queries or problems surrounding your internship on 0800 917 2368.
Internship Dos and Don'ts
DON’T be afraid to ask to be paid, even if stated unpaid.
DON’T be afraid to leave.
DO keep a journal – by recording what new skills you have learnt and a full record of your time there. If you try applying for a job with the employer at the end of your internship, you have evidence of your capability in the role.
DO ask for a reference before you leave.
DO chase up your payment expenses.
DO ask whether you can use the work in your portfolio.
By Sophie Filipiuk, Student Ambassador