I recently read an article in Management today entitled ‘What is an intern worth’ to quote the author Elizabeth Anderson
- “Internships are a tricky subject – on the one hand they provide a young person with valuable experience (now essential for taking the first step into employment). But it also means organisations are getting free labour and some (although not the majority) exploit this.”
After a discussion with my younger brother Shaun, he felt compelled to follow up with his thoughts. Here's what he had to say:
As a first-year undergraduate student, I am constantly being told by those around me that an internship is the best way to spend my summer: “You may as well spend your summer gaining some experience in your chosen industry whilst making some money”.
After nearly eight months of searching for an internship, I’ve started to think that I’ve just wasted two thirds of my year.
There’s no doubt that there are a large number of internships out there; yet, after reading through masses of job specifications and requirements, it has become evident that larger companies only want to hear from you if you’re a penultimate year student, and smaller companies only want to hear from you if you’re willing to work for free. Unfortunately, I do not fit in to either of those categories.
Of course, there has been the odd exception to this observation, one of which was a paid internship for first-year students advertised by HSBC. However, applying for this internship proved to be yet another waste of time. After completing the long-winded application form for the internship, I was invited to answer a series of questions that could be answered with ‘Yes or No’ to determine whether or not I would be suitable for the position. As you may have guessed, I was not successful. But I couldn’t help question why I was not given the series of ‘Yes or No’ questions before the application form. If my suitability for the position could be deemed by a few easy-to-answer questions, why give me a tedious application form first?
Despite this minor frustration, I continued searching for a summer internship. I eventually stumbled across an internship for Allianz Insurance. After a four month long recruitment process, I was invited to the assessment centre. Once again, I was unsuccessful. All candidates were promised feedback on their performance at the assessment centre; yet, three months have passed, and despite my calls and emails, I have not received any form of reply. If I ever receive some feedback (the chances of which are becoming less likely by the day), I would deem this a worthwhile experience. However, until that day comes, all I can take away from the experience is the memory of being chauffeur-driven to and from the train station...not often you get called “Sir” as a student!
Eventually, due to the lack of first-year opportunities and larger companies seeming reluctant to communicate, I decided to search for internships within smaller companies. Yet, these searches have also proved to be disappointments, as the phrase “unpaid, but travel and lunch expenses covered” has popped up in the majority of the adverts. Although there may be a few students who could afford to take these unpaid internships, the majority of students I know would need some form of income to fund their summer months (whether it be rent for their accommodation at university, or living expenses at home).
Ultimately, there’s no doubt that there are a large number of summer internships available to students. However, it seems as if the majority of these opportunities are only available to a few select groups of students based on educational status and economic well-being. This begs the question: Is an internship really the best way to spend my summer?