Having been brought up in the countryside, and feeling as if I didn't quite 'fit in' in such a small town, I applied to university to do a degree in Fashion Promotion in the wide-eyed (and somewhat) naive belief that it would be my ticket to the cosmopolitan lifestyle in London that I'd always dreamed of.
Fast forward a few years. During our time at university, we were encouraged to do internships (and given a three week slot to do them in - barely any internships are this short, for starters!) based on the fact that it would help us to gain industry experience and to help us find jobs once we'd graduated. It was at this point that my classmates and I realised that 'internship' was code for 'unpaid'. We potentially brushed this off at the time as we were students, still trying to prove our worth.
For me, graduation came and went, tinged with the stark reality that even as a degree educated individual, my only step into the industry, realistically, was via an internship. Having come out of university broke and ever so slightly burnt out, it was simply not an option to plough myself into debt in order to follow my dreams.
Two years back in the countryside, and my dreams of bigger things niggled and taunted me day by day. And so here I am, having upped and left my cosy countryside hometown and a semi-cushty job, I am now paying £650 a month rent (plus bills!) to live in a city that not only condones unpaid labour, but it also seems to encourage it. The ratio of paid to unpaid internships in my experience seems to be around 1:20, and perhaps I'm being conservative here; paid internships are like gold dust!
I am fresh out of an internship with a PR company that I didn't even last 2 days in. I begrudged all the mind numbing tasks that I was being given, that I wasn't even being paid to do. I weighed it all out and it simply wasn't worth it - self worth is something that we must hold firmly onto, and mine was slipping away! Breaking point came when I was asked to sort the recycling out; how on earth was this relevant to anything?! True, if I'd have stayed a few more days, maybe I would've got more out of it - but in an office where returns are coming in thick and fast daily, I knew that would be my job and that there would be little time for anything worthwhile. As little value a degree may hold, I still trust my intelligence and my instinct on knowing when to bow out, and that will be the last unpaid internship I ever do.