Archive for the 'Admin' Category

A quick update:

Interns Anonymous may have been slow updating the website in recent weeks but don’t be fooled into thinking we aren’t working hard!

The highlight of the past two weeks has been a face to face meeting with about 15 members of Low Pay Commission to update them on what is happening in the intern industry.

We are hopeful that their report on the state of the minimum wage, due in early 2011, will be a forceful condemnation of current practises.

We also keep working on the slow drip drip of press coverage which is gradually moving the intern agenda further up the public’s consciousness.

Please keep writing into us with your intern experiences though, as this is the lifeblood of our site!


The official role is ‘administration intern’

I am presently an intern for a religious charity. The official role is ‘administration intern’. It’s neither paid, nor expenses covered. At least my bosses are nice.

Most of the internship consists of independently creating administrative systems for the organisation. All of the tasks require initiative on my part. The staff are unable to help me when I have problems, as most of my issues are largely technical and I am by default the office techie. I’m left alone to solve the computer problems.

The staff are very friendly and it was also a bit of a surprise how ‘Abercrombie & Fitch’ everyone looks (i.e. glamorous/trendy 20-somethings). I wouldn’t have thought working in a charity meant you had to look like you worked at Vogue. I feel a bit intimidated that I don’t look like a model, and how exceptionally young the senior staff are. Maybe I just expected more people over 35 in senior positions. I’ve not been there long enough to determine if it’s an ageist company but grey haired people are completely absent.

On the first day I was given a cultural sensitivity document detailing do’s and don’ts that weren’t so obvious such as Kosher and Halal dietary rules as well customs about how casual physical touching is unusual for some conservative groups (so don’t offer to shake another’s hand or casually touch them on the shoulder unless they do it first). That helped me avoid any faux pas. Once an intern came in with some McDonalds, and everyone gave her a dirty look. I’m glad that wasn’t me! The best thing is the atmosphere and the bizarre conversations that go on among the staff about 80s and 90s nostalgia, interspersed with serious conversation about deadlines and public events.

This internship has given me my confidence back after such a long period of unemployment, I realise the worth of my skills in the office. I help with financial records, I solve discrepancies in databases and sometimes I have advised on how to organise their finances! My bosses give me a lot of responsibility and free reign. The downside of this is that I don’t have support if I have a problem. Until I’ve properly set up their administrative infrastructure, I’m almost indispensable, which begs the question of ‘why am I not paid?

Even prostitutes get paid…

I’ve been working as an “intern”, (or if you prefer, substitute the usual ‘unpaid, unappreciated, exploited office helot without whom the entire company would implode’) in a business organisation  for the past 3 months. Technically, I should be getting some specific experience and in fairness I have been, for a given value of ‘some’. The trouble is all the other stuff I’ve been asked to do. Like organise and book my boss’s holiday, book restaurants for his friends, find tickets for shows, go to the supermarket, squeeze fruit into juice for 5 hours for a cocktail party etc etc. My boss once made me go to the cash machine, and honestly I have never been so tempted to commit a crime in my life.

The most recent outrage He Who Must Not Be Named has perpetrated was to ask me to track down a certain kind of foodstuff as a gift for some friends: and this item, believe you me, is rare as hen’s teeth. Probably rarer. So I call up Harrods, Harvey Nicks, Selfridges, all the major supermarkets and some of the minor ones too. No go. Then I trawl through the internet. No luck, except a cash and carry who demand you buy 100 of them. For a moment I’m tempted to do so, just to see his face as 100 of the dratted things are unloaded into my his hallway. Most people by this stage would give up, but my boss is made of sterner stuff; that sort of attitude did not win us the Empire. No lily-livered surrender for them. He Who Must Not Be Named resembles an angry deity, propitiated only by the sacrificial sweat of their workforce. Boss decides that the thing to do is to ring up the factory where it’s made –in China.  He reasons that everybody speaks English these days so they must have someone who can help. With some scepticism I call them, and sure enough the person on the other end of the line has no idea what I’m saying and eventually I thank them for their time (in English, since my school didn’t stretch to Mandarin) and hang up. I’m told to send an email, which I duly do. This saga has started to haunt my waking and sleeping: I’m so irrationally stressed about it that I’m almost weeping in frustration. This is compounded by being sent texts about it at 9pm on a Sunday evening, for example.

I have a Master’s degree from Durham and this is what I’m reduced to. Like an idiot, or a masochist, I take it, partly because I’ve been brought up to be helpful and partly because I’m so desperate for a job now that I’d probably Morris dance naked on the House of Commons roof if it meant someone would offer me one. I’m terrified that any refusal will lead to a terrible reference, so my boss can dangle the prospect of a permanent position at the end of this stint (which, incidentally, has no official end date, so I could be working for free forever or until I find another job), ensuring that I never refuse to do anything, no matter how absurd or mundane. In the meantime I am effectively paying, since I have to pay for my own travel expenses, to have my dignity and self-respect peeled away, layer by layer, as though flayed alive. Even prostitutes get paid for their services; interns have to pay their punters. And meanwhile employers still want their pound of graduate flesh, and we still give it to them.

I want a cocktail

I want a cocktail

Interns Anonymous

We want this website to be a forum for interns to share their experiences and discuss the ethics of unpaid employment. Most importantly, we want this site to be a place where YOU can tell us your story.


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