How To Find A Good Internship That Won't Break the Bank
These factors alone present internships as demoralising and unethical, however, there are many opportunities out there with companies that genuinely want to help interns grow and develop their skills.
Words by Georgia Gadsby
Over the past year the subject of internships, particularly unpaid ones, has become the topic of controversial conversation. Large corporations, particularly in the fashion industry, have been accused of taking advantage of graduates by employing unpaid interns for lengths ranging from a month to a year and often with no job prospects within the same company after. Not only is this taking advantage of students and graduates, it also creates a glass ceiling for those from less privileged backgrounds, meaning that those that do not live in London and cannot afford to commute every day have no chance of progressing in their career to the extent that others can.
These factors alone present internships as demoralising and unethical, however, there are many opportunities out there with companies that genuinely want to help interns grow and develop their skills. These internships can come from smaller business which allow interns to take on more responsibilities so they are constantly learning, or from large businesses that are willing to pay their interns for the hard work they put in. Even local companies to you, not necessarily in London, are often happy to take on students for work experience and intern placements therefore eliminating extensive travel fees for those that would have otherwise commuted.
Rather than feeling pressured to apply for internships in giant corporations such as Vogue and Estee Lauder in the heart of the city, try going for something that will benefit YOU, not just your CV.
Step 1: Write a List of Cans and Cannots
Not everyone lives in or close to London and therefore we can’t all afford to travel there for an unpaid role - it’s yet another sad fact of life - yet others may find that they do have the ability to do this. Write a list of what you can do and what you absolutely cannot do. For example, if you can’t work for more than a month put it in your ‘cannot’ column. Once you have completed the two columns you should have an idea of what you need to be looking for whether that be full time paid three month London based placement or a part time unpaid one month closer-to-home placement.
Step 2: Search Your Key Words
If finding a placement that is paid is the most important thing to you, make sure you are including that in your job searches and likewise with other elements of the job. If only working close to home is important, make sure you include your location in your job searches. Sites like indeed.com are great for narrowing down internships as they allow you to select how far you are willing to travel and also allow you to look at reviews from other people that have worked there.
Websites such as Find Your Intern and Fashion jobs are also great for fashion industry roles specifically, but key words are important here. There’s not point applying for a job in Glasgow when you live in Kent and only just realising once you have sent the application off. Double check everything, even when using keywords to help you out.
Step 3: Find Business You Love and Apply Directly To Them (even if they’re not hiring interns!)
I found my first proper internship through Instagram. I followed a PR agency known as ‘The London Fashion Agency’ at the time (now known as LFA PR) because I loved their imagery and immediately thought of them when I was told I would have to complete an internship for my degree. I hopped onto their website, wrote an honest (and if not a bit kiss-assy) cover letter about how I love the company, and within a week I had an interview and following that an internship which I fell in love with. Have a scroll through your Instagram and see who you’re following! There might be some amazing small businesses you have never thought about interning for until now.
On a side note, when applying directly to businesses that may not be advertising, make sure you’re clear with what you’re looking for. Include your key words such as ‘part time’ and specify whether you are looking for a paid position, but never say that you are happy to work for nothing! If you say this in your cover letter, untruthful businesses that would have otherwise paid you may now not because you said you would work for free.
Step 4: Be Thorough and Negotiate
Sometimes unpaid internships aren’t all that bad money wise if you live close to the office and the company pays your expenses. Most internship advertisements will say whether they pay your expenses (usually travel and lunch up to £10-15 a day) straight away, but for those who don’t make sure you ask. Most companies will be happy to cover your travel and lunch up to a certain amount, so don’t miss out just because you didn’t ask!
Along with this, negotiations can happen. Although pretty rare in the world of interning, if you feel that you’re working hard and have been interning at a certain company for an extended period of time, ranging from three months to a year, there is no harm in asking to be paid. You can express that you don’t mind it being minimum wage, but you would feel more comfortable if you were earning something for the hard working you’re doing. The worst that can happen is that they will say no.
Step 5: Apply for Remote Roles
If money is a really big issue, which for many it is, and you’re having absolutely no luck, apply for remote roles. Having been a writing intern and a social media intern remotely, I can guarantee that these are by far the easiest internships to have. You can work from your bed in your pyjamas at absolutely no cost, however, you are giving up the experience of learning in a workplace environment and sadly a remote internship will not teach you nearly as much. Despite this, it’s a great alternative if you’re running low on money or can’t commit to full time or part time as everything is usually at your own pace.