I want my job to be my vocation, something that is in line with my core interests. I hope never to have a to do a job only for practical/financial reasons. In order to achieve this, I have aimed to build experience in my field of interest over the years. Often this has involved doing unpaid internships. I have been lucky enough to have friends who have taken me in when I couldn’t afford to pay the rent as I was doing an unpaid internship, supplemented by other jobs (tutoring, babysitting etc. to earn enough to feed myself at the same time).
It is the time of the year when we are coming to the end of the academic session and the university careers office is bombarding us with internship opportunities over the summer. Almost all of these (except the ones in the financial services sector) are unpaid. Many of these internships are abroad in other European capital cities. I honestly do not understand how they expect young people just coming out of education (with huge debts) to be able to work full time for free, pay for their flights, accomodation and daily sustenance. These organisations either assume that everyone is rich or they are turning a blind eye to the plight of the disadvantaged and financially less well-off in society, thereby entrenching social inequalities. I remember feeling absolutely scandalised and disgusted when the head of a UN organisation who had come to give a careers talk at our university early on in the year, when asked about the culture of unpaid internships in the organistion, replied in a blasse manner that ‘we expect your parents to pay’. Okay, so he was at the LSE where a significant number of the postgraduate community includes members of the international elite. But there were also people like me whose parents CANNOT pay for them. This reeks of hypocrisy especially when the same organisation is claiming to fight poverty and social injustice across the world. So, whilst my colleagues were doing internships in Brussels and the Hague over the Easter break thanks to the bank of mum and dad, others like myself were denied these same opportunities by being inadvertently excluded through the unpaid internship schemes run by many governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations.
In my experience therefore, one of the biggest roadblocks I have faced in looking for a job is the pervasiveness (and the unacceptable acceptance) of unpaid internships. This is because internships often provide an important entry point into a career.