Silvertoad Posse has infinite amounts of respect for the armies of unpaid interns working all sectors of the creative industry. Whilst gaining experience, it is generally their hope that they will get a full-time job at the end of their tenure as intern. This isn’t always the case as a company may have a commitment to training and always has room for an intern but not necessary the budget or even the work to support a paid full-timer. It’s becoming apparent that it’s a two-way street with a lot of firms depending on eager and free labour.
Campaigners warn that companies are using internships to replace permanent roles, pointing out that placements are getting longer with less chance of paid work at the end, while 26 per cent of interns have done three or more placements – and still don’t have a job.
While some paid internships can offer valuable experience and improve your employment prospects, unpaid internships remain highly controversial. If you’re one of the many thousands of young people planning to work as an intern (preferably paid) here are our top tips for turning work experience into a job that pays.
Make a good impression
Think of your internship as an extended interview and probation period. See it’s a mutual ‘try before you buy’ situation. If you sense early on that this is the place for you, tell your boss up-front. Don’t wait until the end of the placement – that way they’ll look at whether you’re right for them more consciously during the internship. As you’re only working at the company for a short time, it’s vital to make a good impression.
Make yourself useful around the office. That does not mean you should seek out or be happy to fill your time with admin tasks. You are offering your hard work in exchange for the opportunity to develop new skills so don’t stay with the safe jobs – volunteer to do things that are more challenging too.
You might not always do brilliantly, few people do the first time they attempt something new, but don’t be afraid to have a go. People often judge you on how you react to setbacks as much as successes – if it goes wrong, be professional and stay positive.
Make sure your face fits
An internship gives you both the chance to see if you ‘fit’ so don’t forget to be personable, as well as proving you have skills to do the job. Dress in a similar way, learn names and be friendly to everyone, including the receptionist, and join in with social activities to build relationships.
Line up an alternative
Have an end date so that you can prepare for your next move, should it look like you will need to move on at the end of the internship.
Think of an internship as a short-term contract, not an ongoing job. Interns who don’t do this can find themselves hanging around endlessly, keeping their fingers crossed their boss will one day offer them some money. They might – but it’s more likely they won’t. Having an end date keeps the relationship professional and gives you some control.
An average internship should last no longer than three months. Always assume you will be leaving on the last day of your internship. Apply for as many jobs as you can and line up something else to go to, even if it’s another unpaid internship. This will give you some bargaining power if your current employer wants to keep you on.
Secure a good recommendation
Before your internship ends, arrange a meeting with your manager. Say that you’ve had a brilliant time and learned loads, but that you’ll need to move on as you need to find some paid work.
Ask them for a reference / testimonial and to keep you in mind if any paid positions come up. If they want to keep you, this is when they will ask.
Ask your manager to write a recommendation on your LinkedIn profile before you leave, while you’re fresh in their mind. Use the site to keep an eye on peoples’ careers – you never know when they may be in a hiring position.
Be prepared to walk away
Perhaps the company genuinely doesn’t have the budget to hire you right now – but that doesn’t mean others won’t. Often, having the courage to walk away is the best thing an intern can do.
Edited from an article by Rachel Burge of www.careerbuilder.co.uk published by MSN.com.