Second thoughts?

After four months of interning in various different capacities, companies and countries, even, my expectations of unpaid placements are increasingly demanding.

In pre-crunch times, I would have been content to endure any amount of boondoggling and tedious admin, safe in the knowledge that, provided I proved enthusiastic enough, my name would be nudged towards the top of the candidates list for prospective vacancies.  But when you’re copied into internal emails asking staff to hold out on big payments and the office coffee jar goes un-replenished, no amount of wishful thinking will convince you that there is a job just waiting to be snapped up.

So while a prestigious name on the CV and getting my face known are definite bonuses, they’re no longer enough.

If my internship is about gaining skills and coming away with the ability to do a specific job, then I have accidentally found myself on a crash course to becoming an office manager with an ironically keen interest in social justice.  After a month of stocktaking, mail merging, franking envelopes and yet more mail merging I am somewhat disillusioned.

The only thing preventing me from walking away is the odd conference or seminar that offers a tantalising glimpse into what life would be like if I were I actually working there. And the fact that the think-tank does some very interesting and important work.

I’m sure my predicament is common.  Most internships mention admin in the job description – just not how much. And while I’m aware that I need to put myself forward for the juicer roles, it seems unfair that the onus should lie purely with interns to prove themselves worthy of more challenging work. Ambitious, enthusiastic interns that want to make the most of their placements tread a fine line between keenness and being downright pushy: some signals from my supervisor about office politics and internship etiquette would be useful.

But in the absence of a ‘how to’ guide, I’ll follow The Guardian’s sage advice and report back on how it went next week.

Tune in sometime soon for more tales from think tank intern…

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