Reader columnist Charlotte Foord, 25, a creative solutions executive living in Kent, defends the internship for providing her with the perfect opportunity - and valuable experience - to get out of a career rut.
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A recent report from the mental health charity Mind found that 26% of employees are so unhappy in their jobs they dread going to work on Monday. At 22 years old despite a 2:1 in English Literature and an armful of work experience under my belt, I was one of them.
On paper I had nothing to complain about. For a start I had a job, which, as a fresh graduate in the middle of the worst economic crisis for years, was in itself a privilege. I was working for one of the best publishing houses in the UK, amongst colleagues I called friends and on a salary way above the national average. Yet every Monday morning I lay in bed exhausted after a sleepless night praying for snow, nuclear disaster, conjunctivitis or frankly anything, anything to not have a face another week at work.
Throughout school and university I had always worked part-time doing anything from pulling pints, to stacking shelves for some extra cash. I was not work-shy and had always enjoyed the challenges and independence associated with working. I had been eager to get stuck into a career following my graduation. Yet with little in the way of career guidance from my university, a year after securing what had appeared a dream job I felt miserable, bored and trapped.
I tried desperately hard to find another job using every spare second outside work scanning job sites and badgering recruitment consultants only to find the despite 22 years of life experience, A Levels, a degree and shed loads of work experience the only job I could get was the one I had been miserably doing for the past year. Within under a year of full-time employment I had been pigeon-holed into a specific role and my C.V. had become invisible to employers outside that sector.
No matter how hard I tried to be optimistic I knew in reality I would have been happier working 12-hour days for minimum wage. To many this will seem ungrateful and embellished, but I know it’s true because that’s what I did!
"On paper I had nothing to complain about. Yet every Monday morning I lay in bed exhausted after a sleepless night praying for anything to not have a face another week at work."
After two long years of squirreling away as much money as I possibly could, I left to take a six month internship. I worked longer and harder than I had for the past two years for barely any financial gain and without the promise of employment at the end of it. Yet I felt more confident and valued than ever before. There were times when I felt frustrated and a little awkward explaining to friends and colleagues that I couldn’t join them for lunch or a holiday this year as I just didn’t have the money, but I found learning new skills and meeting new people who want to help shape your career far outweighed this.
Following the end of my internship the contacts I had made and the new skills I acquired helped me secure a permanent role in a position I love with real future possibilities. I still don’t earn even close to the wage I started on as a graduate and possibly won’t for a good few years, but I sleep soundly Sunday nights and wake up eager Monday mornings.
For all those in a job they hate which is slowly eating away at their self-confidence, interning is a real opportunity to gain the skills you need and prove to employers you are willing to take a step back to move forwards. It provided me with the route into a new profession. Financially it can be tough and sadly not a viable option for all. But the state pension age is rising and it’s more likely than ever our generation will work well into our sixties; fight tooth and nail to make sure it’s doing something you love.
Do you think that internships have their place as a useful career step? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below or on Twitter @stylistmagazine.