Archive for the 'Think Tanks' Category

It almost brought me to tears

I would like to start by saying that I bare no ill will towards the political think tank I worked for or any of its staff, they were all doing the best they could in difficult funding circumstances and I do believe they had a genuine concern for their interns’ wellbeing. However, there needs to be a debate over internship practice because it has a big impact on working practices in the UK’s professional sector.

When I applied for the internship I already had my reservations; it was unpaid work with limited travelling expenses (I just managed to creep in under their limit), no lunch expenses and with full-time working hours. In many ways I was lucky, my parents were both able and willing to subsidise me and I lived within commuting distance of London (although, as I was to discover, train networks meant this journey would take more than four hours out of my day – my fault, but the London-centric nature of this sector is a real concern).

As it was to turn out my internship was no tea-making and photo-copying job, I had in effect been hired to replace a full-time research assistant who had left the month before due to a loss of research funding. To make matters worse my supervisor, who as the organisation’s director, was frequently unavailable and disappeared off for a significant chunk of my internship leaving me essentially to my own devices. Without effective supervision the quantity of work the task entailed shot up, so on top of the four hour commute and eight hour working day I was working for a few hours when I got home as well just to get my projects done. It was a learning curve and I probably came out stronger in the end but for months all the stress and exhaustion really made an impact on my mental – and physical – health.

Continue reading ‘It almost brought me to tears’

I don’t see a penny of it

I am 23 years old, graduated two years ago and am currently on my second internship. I do a full 42.5 hour week for a public affairs organisation, and I pretty much get given anything that’s going spare….in short I’m completely disillusioned with the political scene.

I am proud that we have a minimum wage in this country, however a lot of companies bypass the law by offering “internships” which amount to unpaid full time work. I am doing this internship in a desperate attempt to get some paid work. I am in a very bad financial situation because of it, and I’m unsure how I will pay my rent and other bills at the end of next month. Something seems seriously wrong about this, I have a degree yet I’m only good enough to work for free? Where else in the world would refined educated knowledge go for free? 

The company I currently work for clearly need the labour, they’re just not prepared to pay for it. The work that I do for free is sent to a paying client and I don’t see a penny of it. I don’t see how this can be legal and I don’t understand why no one has done anything to rectify it. In light of this could someone please provide an answer to the following questions:

Is the concept of an “internship” legal?

If not, can I claim any money from my employer?

Will anyone adhere to or enforce this country’s minimum wage rules and stop this blatant exploitation of young labour?

Second thoughts

Last week I was agonizing over whether or not I had the courage/audacity/right/energy (depending on which side of the desk you’re sitting on) to voice my concerns about my internship at the think tank.  But after bumping into another intern at a conference and comparing notes it became evident that my particular department had a high admin level and I was bearing the brunt of it: While he’d been in the British Library researching minimum wages I’d been counting magazines in a dusty stockroom.

Continue reading ‘Second thoughts’

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.

Continue reading ‘Second thoughts?’


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