Why I Hate Internships

I’m doing pretty well in life. I completed high school, I’m a student at ANU – one of Australia’s leading universities – and I’m doing the sort of degree that people assume will lead to a decent career (depending on your definition of “decent career” I guess). However, when I look at the job market I wonder if the difficulties of finishing school and getting a degree will pale in comparison to finding a well-paying job that doesn’t make me want to a) stab my eyeballs with a plastic fork or b) book an appointment with a cardiologist to make sure my heart hasn’t gone black with evil. Yes, the job market is fierce. Have a look on your favourite job-finding site and you will be hard-pressed to find graduate level jobs in most fields.

But what about internships? you say. Well, I’m glad you asked. Internships seem to be the obvious foot in the door for young grads and soon-to-be grads such as myself. Over a set period usually somewhere between three months and a year, you can get work experience in any number of firms, businesses, or NGOs. Who wouldn’t jump at a chance like that?

The only problem is if you dig a little deeper, click on the “job description” page or flip through your application form looking for the salary, you will find only a “WRONG WAY, GO BACK” sign, otherwise known as an “unpaid” or “stipend only” position.

Now, I’m not the sort of Gen-Yer who assumes they should be paid $70,000 a year upon exit from university, or that my degree makes me the holder of all relevant knowledge and all Gen-Xers and baby boomers should go stick it and/or lay at my feet as I proselytise the benefits of almond milk over soy and explain why the Labor party messed up their political messaging and really why doesn’t someone PAY ME TO DO IT FOR THEM?* However, I do expect that when I am employed full-time (or employed part-time but expected to work full-time as is the case with many NGOs), my salary will be enough for me to pay for rent, food, transport and other necessities as they come up such as medical bills, clothes and tampons.** I saw one internship this week which advertised that it would pay $15 per day to “cover travel and food costs”. I snorted. Really? WHO SPENDS ONLY $15 PER DAY ON FOOD AND TRANSPORT IN AUSTRALIA?

I know I sound angry, but really, I’m just very disappointed. I would dearly love do an internship with an NGO or other organisation that is making a positive difference in the world. I would love even more to get work experience so that I can begin my career at some stage in the next couple of years. But I just don’t have the financial means (read: parents) to support me while I work very hard to earn nothing. Does that mean I miss out?

It seems to me as though Gen-Yers are teased by older generations for leaving home later and leaching off their parents, but businesses and organisations are now operating under the assumption that Gen-Yers will leach off their parents and are paying them accordingly. This catch-22 could mean that people like me don’t get the chance to display their skills or compete for positions because we just don’t have the funds. Where is the equal opportunity in that?

*Actually, do those Gen-Yers even exist?
**Damn you GST on tampons!

The author blogs at linseyhart.wordpress.com.