Mayfair intern

I came across your website since having some serious issues at my current work place. It helps to let it out!

After graduating in July 2008, I had already prepared some work experience for the end of the month in a very prestigious and independent shop in the heart of Mayfair (family connections).

The first month flew by as I put all my effort into being delightful and eager, with the chance that my hard-work could land myself a job. I managed to part-succeed, gaining a great relationship with my two bosses. So much so, they wanted me their full time.

As time went on, my honeymoon with London started to take its toll and after 3 months of unpaid work I was exhausted, both mentally and physically. The money issue also became a big problem. My parents were funding me to live with the hope of great things and it took all my courage to ask for a little bit of help from my boss’s. It was November at this point and my parents were struggling. I asked whether I could have a little bit of money for travel expenses or to work three days a week to try and get a paid part-time job.

After what I believed to have been a successful chat, two days went by and no change was mentioned, only criticism for having a few days off. I was tempted to say it was my exhaustion working for them that made me ill but decided against it. Eventually I was told that as of the end of January, I would be on the pay roll but paid low. Not even minimum wage.

I’m still here and completely stuck as to what to do. I’ve poured five and a half months of unpaid work into the hope of a great career at the end of it. Although I’ll be getting paid at the end of this month, it’s not much and if anything my boss’s are getting more demanding. First day back from Christmas and already they want me in an extra hour early.

5 Responses to “Mayfair intern”

  1. 1 Placement lady 01/05/2010 at 4:42 pm

    Dear Mayfair Intern

    I know you probably know this already but your employer is breaking the law. I know it seems like a good idea to work for nothing in the hope of the career of your dreams but unfortunately it means that you will be exploited for many months if not longer. You must put a value on yourself and understand that any employer worth their salt will value your contribution and from what you have said, you have contributed a lot so far. Do not let yourself be exploited in order to get a career that may or may not materialise. This may sound harsh but I get angry at the number of employers who use graduates as a source of cheap labour when they are more than capable of paying you. If you have already been there for several months they should have formed a decision on the quality of your work and whether they want to make you permanent. They cannot now decide to pay you a small sum because you have complained but not pay the minimum wage. By paying you at all they have recognised that the exploitation cannot continue. Sadly they still think they can break the law. Although it is a risky strategy my advice would be to request a meeting and put your case to them. Either they plan to keep you on and provide a salary that reflects your contribution and meets NMW regulations or you consider using the experience you have already gained to find alternative employment with an employer who has the decency to pay you. Family ties are no reason to offer yourself up to exploitation. Unless graduates stand up for what is right and quote the law, unpaid internships will always be just that. I hope this helps you although it may not be what you want to hear.

  2. 2 Mark Watson 01/05/2010 at 6:14 pm

    Well said Placement lady. Absolutely 100%.

  3. 3 Joanna 01/07/2010 at 5:44 pm

    Why don’t you do more naming and shaming on this site? The possibility of negative PR would maybe shame a few companies into treating interns like human beings instead of slave labour…

  4. 4 Mark Watson 01/08/2010 at 11:25 am

    If anyone would like to do that, this site is always willing to hear, totally anonymously:

    Mostly TV and Film but happy to hear of all unpaid work.

  5. 5 Perseverance Works 01/18/2010 at 3:17 pm

    I write as some one in their early 50s who has done a number of jobs including over 8 years of running her own PR consultancy.

    I don’t know what your job is at this place or what gender you are, but at lunchtimes or after work make appointments to go and see the local agencies and do interviews - secretarial, whatever, with your CV. You have a bit of experience which proves you will turn up on time and you will get a good reference on leaving. Say you have a dentist or doctor’s appt. when you get an interview.

    Write a list of your skills hard and soft (ie good accurate typing and PC skills (hard) self-starter, good phone skills etc) before you head off out to see the agencies. Be a receptionist in a big creative organisation and get paid.

    You have no idea how much confidence this will give you, as well as good interview practice. Don’t rubbish your current ‘employer’ in interview - say that you realised that the profession isn’t really what you want.

    If you do like what you are doing at the moment (regardless of the pay) take a view on it and decide you will endure it for 6 months or a year. Can you talk confidentially to anyone else a grade above you at the company? How do they find it.

    Prestige isn’t everything and neither is pleasing your parents. Think about what you really want to do, where you really want to work, and write to these places telling them why you are interested in working with them. Old fashioned letters really do get a response.London is tough enough without getting paid and why should your parents who have worked and saved hard, subsidise this company??

    Don’t ever believe that you won’t get another job, even if you are sacked. And frankly, such companies have no integrity and their prestige is a fiction if they treat anyone like this.
    They should be shopped.

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