Can’t do an internship? Don’t Panic

Many people feel that doing an internship is the only way to gain useful experience in their preferred area of work. The trouble is, internships often demand a full-time commitment and many last for at least 3 months, if not 6 or 12. They might not give you the experiences you crave and although a name on your CV is useful, internships are not the only way you can demonstrate a commitment to your chosen field of work.

For example, if you want to stop human rights abuses around the world why not see what organizations in your local community are doing. For example, Crossroads women’s centre in Kentish Town has a number of projects that are run by volunteers, from supporting asylum seekers with their cases, to drawing attention to the negative aspects of prostitution law.  Other organizations might need volunteers to visit detention centres, befriend and advocate for individual asylum seekers and help with their PR and campaigning.

 If you want to get into TV and film and you aren’t able to find any appropriate work experience or paid work, then try volunteering for charities like worldwrite- they teach you how to operate basic filming equipment free of charge. Alternatively, if you want to get into production then try and produce your own play or show- and if you have a friend who is interested in PR get them to set up a website and print leaflets to publicise your show. You may have heard about the people who sold credits to fund their film- thinking creatively can be effective- look up different ways to source funding for any project you are interested in. Grants, crowd funding, events, sponsorship from business- these are all possibilities that deserve your attention.

Politics is an area where interning in parliament is extremely useful but it isn’t the only way to gain useful knowledge and skills. Volunteering for a couple of days a week at a constituency is a good place to start if you are finding it hard to get a more structured or paid internship- you can work on the side to earn your keep and learn about the role of casework and of course, stuffing envelopes.  If you are interested in being an MP, rather than a researcher, then being politically engaged in other ways should be crucial as well. Think about your views, research government policy, blog about it, get in touch with other political blogs- like labourlist, the liberalconspiracy and conservative home- to name just three.

And in real life, rather than the virtual world, get involved with community projects, gardens and allotments, football teams, campaigns on issues affecting certain groups or areas. The do-it website is very useful for this, or your local library, community centre etc. If you are really moved by one particular area then become an expert- go to any talks you can find that are free (for example, the Overseas Development Institute will often hold talks that are open to students or volunteers), look at government papers that have been published, read journalism from several sources, read books, pamphlets, email people who might know more.

Journalism is an area where the utility of volunteering is more difficult to apply. However, independent  (self-started…) work is very useful- setting up a blog on any subject is a good idea- looking on gorkana jobs (or similar) for writing opportunities is also- sports, fashion and political blogs often look for free writers to contribute. If you like a particular blog and feel you have something to say then write to them with your idea. I am not arguing that blogging is all you need to do to get a job in journalism but it is a good place to start if you feel that opportunities are not forthcoming in other areas.

I am not going to cover every possible industry or interest and I know this is a london-centric article (that’s where I know about) but I hope that this piece has demonstrated that there are many options available to anyone who is passionate about what they want to do. Even if you need to work in an unrelated area full time to support yourself, you should be able to find something that fits in with your schedule and gives you valuable experience in the area you eventually want to end up in.

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