Face The Work Experience Conundrum


It’s something that most of us will have to face, whether we are at university or not: work experience. These days, more than ever, getting a job straight out of university is a total nightmare and getting one without a jot of work experience on your CV, well, it doesn’t bear thinking about. Luckily, for years and years it has been drummed into me that I must get work experience and to forcefully grab any opportunity that comes my way with both hands. Unfortunately, this means that there is no chance of grabbing any moolah, monies, dollar, cash. 

As we all know far too well, work experience these days is such a valuable thing in itself that it almost goes without saying that you aren’t going to get a dime for your time. And because there are so many thousands of graduates and undergraduates desperate for even a few weeks at a publishing house, PR company, magazine, newspaper etc, the competition is fierce and therefore these companies have the ability to offer travel expenses at best, and experience-hungry fresh-out-of-university-faces will accept that, no questions asked.

The dilemma I’m facing is that I have managed to secure the summer working for a wonderful boutique PR company in London (fingers crossed my ‘trial week’ goes well, something I’m quite nervous about!) and although my travel expenses will be covered (phew), that is it. I was told I might get paid a little bit, depending on the company’s accounts at the time, which is fair enough I suppose, however I’m not going to get my hopes up. So basically, I am spending nearly three months in one of the most expensive city’s in the world with just enough money to travel. That doesn’t leave much room for any extra activities outside of working nor general living i.e. buying food. Luckily, I do have a little bit of money saved up that I have earned in the past, but enough for three months? I don’t think so. I am also exceptionally lucky in that we have very good family friends in London who offered to have me stay for virtually three months.

I’m still worried though. I will have to have a little help from my parents, although to be honest I hate asking them for money. But it’s not just not possible otherwise and it was something my friends and I were talking about the other afternoon. Of course we are privileged to be in the position of being offered these wonderful internships, don’t get me wrong I never take it for granted – heck, it’s taken me about three or four years to finally have a breakthrough after incessant emailing/writing/pleading – but surely it wouldn’t hurt for these company’s and corporations to pay a little bit, even minimum wage? As an intern you should, ideally, be helping the company in some way and surely that’s worthy of some sort of small reward to help you live in a city as expensive as London?

The thing is, I’m lucky. Very lucky. I know so many people who just wouldn’t be able to have accepted or even looked for internships in London because of this very problem. They don’t have parents who are nice enough or comfortable enough to be helping them out as they spend time in London and if you don’t know anyone that you can live with in London, meaning you’d have to add living costs to your summer outgoings as well, that of course is totally impossible for most. It’s a vicious circle – now more than ever we need work experience – yet now more than ever part-time jobs are hard to come by and everybody is generally more cash-strapped.