It’s not easy being an intern – but who wants it to be easy?

Upon initially reading the strives and toils of the five female interns featured in recent Telegraph article, ‘It’s not easy being an intern’, it seemed I would have another battle on my hands defending the value of graduate internships.

Describing their intern experiences – ranging from placements at Vivienne Westwood to Whitechapel Gallery – Jessica Turner explained how she has to commute an hour each day to her internship in London, whilst Hannah Sanderson noted that most of her friends were buying houses and have cars.

Yet, essentially, by the end of the piece, a simpler message doggedly and unavoidably rang through about internships – that they were worth it.

“I never feel I missed out,” explained Hannah, who is currently interning with emergency relief charity Merlin, “because I‘m doing what I’ve always wanted to do.”

All the women’s experiences listed in the piece demonstrated one of the initial great advantages of an internship – they allow access to employment areas otherwise often strictly closed to new, inexperienced graduates.

But of course, there is far more to an internship than just a bridge into those no-go zones. They can help build professional confidence, teach all the important occupational knowhow, provide relevant contacts and provide the opportunity to acquire work experience sometimes imperative for achieving a permanent position in the employment field you really want to be in.

But no, I’m afraid they aren’t always easy.

What would be the point if they were?

Just think about all those “Devil Wears Prada” incidents you hear about – I shall set the scene:  a lucky someone has accomplished an internship – and it’s going to be ground-breaking. They just know this is going to be their step up, the break they need to really make it in the world.

Then they arrive and get handed the morning’s post to sort and the office’s tea and coffee order to prepare. Turns out, discovering who has sugar – one lump or two? And alphabetising letters are to be some of the more complicated tasks they will be allocated during their time with the company. What do they learn? Nothing. Why? Because it’s all just too easy.

Crucially – internships are a learning experience. They are meant to be challenging! They are meant to make you think and they are meant to teach you something new, not wear out and bore the skills you’ve already perfected – even if you do make a damn good cuppa.

Sure, there is a different side to ‘not being easy’. Some people may need to take a second job to top up the pennies, or have to adhere to a strict budget for a few months, retained from previously saved funds topped up with the paid expenses from the internship. A tough, tiring and limiting experience as I very well know – I’ve been there numerous times myself.

But then is this any different to those who have to do the same to get through their university degree or college course?  – Minus the fact that they don’t get the added bonus of refunded expenses? No, not really. And do those people get criticised? Of course not. They get commended for their hard work and commitment to doing whatever is necessary to achieve their aspirations. Hmm, I see a connection here…

An internship should be regarded as a similar extended curve of education. It is meant, and should be regarded by both sides of the intern agreement as a training opportunity; a chance to work alongside professionals and get the practical skills and wisdom that just can’t be taught in a classroom.  Hopefully such a vocational and colourful educational experience will strongly compensate being a bit short for a few months or having to work a few extra hours. And if it doesn’t? Then leave! No internship should ever obligate you to anything, or -importantly – go on for longer than a few months, i.e. a reasonable amount of time to learn all the tricks of the trade. If it’s not working for you, find something that does.

Despite all the intern horror stories that often take prominence in the media (c’mon – it’s the media…) there are a lot of really good, genuine internships out there, organised and structured for everyone to get the most out of them. Just take our Telegraph girls for example. Hannah is now eagerly anticipating getting involved with the relief programme for Pakistan through her internship.

And Jessica, who was working as a script development intern for Future Films, is thrilled to have just been offered a paid role of production and development assistant at the company. “I’m so pleased to be able to stay,” she said. “It’s been tough getting to this point, but you can’t expect too much because it’s a competitive industry. Because my degree was in film theory, I didn’t come away with the practical experience of being able to go on set and know what’s what. Maybe I would’ve progressed more quickly if I had.”

Like the girls in the Telegraph article, few of the graduates I speak to regret doing an internship.  Instead, they appreciate what they gained from the experience, and are enjoying the career boost it provided for them.

And sure, few of them will say it was easy. But who wants it to be easy?

To read Telegraph article ‘It’s not easy being an intern’ visit:

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