Published on November 18, 2013 | by Holly Gilbert & Nina Hoogstraate


#Internships: Are they still valuable?

A valuable internship can be like gold-dust to a student, but there is many a tale of students hired without pay to be amateur baristas [Alyin Elci]

Internships are a looming presence for many students, especially those at UAL. Experience is vital in such a competitive world, but the prospect of working 9-5 without pay and without the guarantee of a job will fill many with dread.

Yet internships seem invaluable on the surface- they offer the opportunity to network, to gain that much needed work experience, and add another notch the the CV. As UAL’s ‘Creative Opportunities’ site has now stopped advertising unpaid internships, ALNVoices wondered whether fellow students will still believe in the power of the internship.

Here, ALN feature writers Holly Gilbert and Nina Hoogstraate weigh the pro’s and con’s of the debate, in our For and Against

ALN features writer – Nina Hoogstraate

When people think of internships, they often think it will consist of making cups of tea and memorising everybody’s name in the office to give them their piles of post twice a day, in the vain hope that they will learn your name and say ‘thank you’ by the end of the second week.

Having done over six editorial internships, there has not been one office where I’ve had to make anyone a cup of tea, apart from myself. I’ve even had brews made for me, the intern.

This is not to say that at every internship for every publication, fashion house or PR company people will be down to earth enough to do petty, annoying jobs themselves; maybe I’ve just been lucky.

Naturally, it is depressing to think how much money you’ve lost out over the span of a month: working 10am-6pm for free, and spending your own money on commuting and wasting your last pennies on lunch at Pret.

But what’s most important is the experience and skills you’ll gain. There’s obviously an element of compromise, but if you want to be the best at what you want to do, you need to start somewhere, right?

An internship helps you figure out what you enjoy and hate doing; I thought I wanted to go into fashion journalism until I went to fashion week and found writing about fashion was the most tedious and boring thing ever.

It also helps build up your portfolio and contacts – as dull as that sounds, it’s something you will need – and chances are there will be some like-minded people who may well end up being your friends.

After leaving a couple of my internships, I’ve been asked to carry on writing copy for them, which is an offer I wouldn’t have got if I didn’t have the drive to send 50 emails and follow-ups to get the opportunity to dip my toes in the pool of journalism in the first place.

Nowadays, with most creative industries being so competitive, we’re all pretty much forced into slaving away for free for a couple of months at a time simply to put another skill on your CV, and show off your abilities on LinkedIn.

But trust me, it’s worth it.

ALN features writer- Holly Gilbert

The eternal question asked by many arts students throughout their years at university: are internships useful?

Is loitering outside an office kitchen with the vain hope that someone important will pass and ask you for a hot beverage useful? Suddenly your skills with a cafétiere might come to fruition and they will realise that you are an asset to their company and offer you a job on the spot. Unlikely. This situation is perhaps a little dramaticised but indulges my sense of injustice about working for free.

I am in no way discrediting the importance of a good internship in the creative avenue you wish to take; it gives you the opportunity to further learn and attain a nuanced understanding of the business elements that we are often not exposed to.

However, if you are simply committing vast swathes of time and energy to developing your Facebook stalking skills or perfecting your barista foam art for the employees who get paid to be there, then I would say internships are pretty pointless.

We are at a difficult crossroads, old enough to have what is considered to be a ‘proper job’ but too young to be considered experienced enough to be paid for putting our university-gained skills into practice. But where do you draw the line?

Interning for free at place after place is demoralising and stressful. I have a friend who did it for the best part of two years. She studied at LCF for four years and then interned at many a peculiar place – one of which was Madame Tussauds where she was tasked in sewing the hair of Harry Styles to his waxen head. When she ran out of money, she would work for an accountancy firm for a few months and start the interning process again. She is one of the lucky ones and landed a job in journalism – she does attribute this to a fluke – and also makes a spectacular cup of coffee.

Internships are hard to come by and attribute to a heightened sense of stress while prancing around the offices of your choice like a prize-pony. Cracking into any creative industry is arduous and nail-bitingly nerve-wracking, but we were told from the offset this wasn’t going to be easy.

This is indeed the case. My advice to a budding intern would be this: be wary, be selective in your application choices, and intern ultimately because you want to learn and not because you think it will look impressive on your C.V.




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