Catch 22 – Nice work if you can get it.

Are you lucky enough to have a job? Look around your office now…how many work experience/placements or interns have sat beside you in the last year? 5, 10, 100? More? How many of them have already got a degree and are over the age of 21? A lot right? Well if anyone should know, it’s me.

At 21, I’ve spent the last 3 years tirelessly working FOR FREE, completing 4 work experience places and writing for a number of online magazines. I’ve done a national newspaper, a nationwide magazine, music reviews, film reviews and even spent a month writing for an MP. You name it, I’ve done it. And each time I try and kid myself that this will be it…someone must notice me and actually PAY ME for my efforts.

The same goes for my friends who have all had the same experience. One of them (working for a major fashion label) had to save up £2000 to go to London and rent a flat. In return, he got 12-14 hour long days, sewing little animals and no expenses.

Another friend has again been working part-time (for a major fashion label) for nearly 2 years. And although she loves it…that’s a lot of free work, all juggled around a crappy bar job/a crappy café job/crappy temping work, just to get by.

According to sources, Alexander McQueen used to get interns to sign an agreement, stating that they ‘opted-out’ of all working time regulations, thus meaning that they were legally ‘employed’ for 48 unpaid hours a week. Obviously, we’re not alone because the number of internships and work experience placements have sky rocketed in recent years, opening up questions of exploitation and laws regarding free labour.

And now in a new twist, interns are having pay their potential employers. Take American Vogue for instance. In April this year, a year long internship cost one ‘lucky’ lady $42,000 (£27,000). The NSPCC also raised over £4,000 for a month long placement at Christie Hospital.

With an average debt for graduates of £21,000 where do we, I go from here? I take part in work placements to build on my portfolio in the hope that one day that someone will notice me…at the same time I’m slowly increasing my ever growing debt. But what’s the alternative? A 9-5? No thanks.


  1. LDN Intern says:

    Some industries seem to live off the free work of interns.

  2. Catherine (London) says:

    I got taken advantage of so much when i was an intern. I FEEL YOUR PAIN!!!!!

  3. sue says:

    it was different in my day. if you did work exp. you tended to get the job. i feel sorry for people like you today x