Internships have been a subject of fierce debate over the last few years, especially those internships that are completely unpaid.
Some say that internships are an incredibly valuable opportunity for those who need work experience within a certain field – they give young people a chance to get a foot in the door and make important connections in a workplace. But there are many who claim that unpaid internships are built to exclude the disadvantaged, because only those who can afford to support themselves without being paid a monthly wage can conceivably apply.
So what is the truth about internships? Are they a valuable opportunity for young people, or are they more of an exclusive club for those who can afford it? As a leading London recruitment agency with years of experience, we take a look at the pros and cons.
Pros of internships
The key benefit of taking an internship is the experience it will offer. It allows young people to add a real workplace to their CV, which may look bare immediately after they graduate. So many jobs in the competitive market require candidates to have existing experience before they apply, and internships can help plug this gap for many young people.
Internships also give younger people the chance to build connections for the first time in their lives. If you take an internship, you may not immediately gain a job at the place where you’ve worked, but your boss might be willing to provide a reference, and one of your co-workers may have heard of a position opening up at another company. Making these valuable connections can be almost as important as experiencing the workplace itself.
Cons of internships
Obviously, the biggest downside of many internships is that they’re unpaid. This means that unless you have a very supportive family or some funds saved up to live on, you’ll probably be unable to apply for the role. There is a small chance you may be able to take a second job if you have the time (remember, you cannot be under contracted hours if you’re on an unpaid internship—this is illegal), but this could leave you drained and exhausted, unable to give your full attention to either role.
Many people who have completed internships also claim that they haven’t learned as much as they thought, because they were tasked with ‘grunt work’ and irrelevant tasks, such as making tea and sorting mail. Some internships do involve giving interns plenty of responsibility, but there are just as many businesses out there who take on interns simply to complete the most basic tasks for little to no pay, rather than giving you true experience of an office support job.
- 65% of interns rely on financial assistance from the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ – just 25% were able to make ends meet on their own.
- 60% of graduates in paid internships got at least one job offer. 37% of those in unpaid internships got a job offer, compared with 36% of those who didn’t take an internship at all. Is a paid internship worth it?
- 60% of students said they didn’t find the experience of working for free to be beneficial.
- The average cost of living in London for six months (rent, bills, food, and transport) is £6,081, which is the amount an intern would need to find on their own if they weren’t being paid.
What do you think about unpaid internships? Has an internship benefitted you, or was it a waste of your time and money? Let us know in the comments…
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