As the government launches a crackdown on unpaid internships, industries and government alike are re-thinking how we should approach the issue of internships in the world of work. Social mobility charity The Sutton Trust states that a month’s unpaid internship in London costs on average £1,019 – excluding travel expenses. This takes into account things like rent, bills and food (all of which cost more in the capital) – a big consideration for anyone thinking about the reality of an internship.
Clearly, this presents a problem for a whole host of people, and can act as a barrier to social mobility.
But before we throw the baby out with the bath water, we should recognise that internships provide a valuable way for young people to get onto the career ladder. Many employers are also waking up to the idea of paying their interns.
Cancer Research, for example, recently confirmed that it is abolishing unpaid internships in a bid to be more inclusive. The charity will now pay interns a national living wage, giving between 70 and 100 young people from a range of backgrounds a fantastic opportunity to experience the sector, in an affordable way.
Speaking from my own experience, the internship I undertook at Fourth Day offered me a valuable opportunity to dip a toe in the world of PR and allowed me to experience the day to day realities of working in the industry.
This enabled me to change career. At first glance, a background in Criminology and a job rehabilitating ex-offenders might have seemed like an unlikely fit for someone applying to work in a B2B PR agency. However, this internship gave me a chance to change tracks.
So, what benefits does an internship in PR offer you?
Learning on the job
This route into PR offers a fantastic way to get to grips with the fundamental principles of the profession. You can see the difference between B2B and B2C PR and figure out which is best for you.
The major take-away for me, was by working in B2B I got the chance to develop an understanding of complex products and services – this might involve cutting edge technology or company cultures. You also get an insight into what influences key business decisions.
Getting stuck in
Working in a small agency means you can’t be afraid to muck in! During my three-months in the London office I did a huge variety of things, from assisting with writing and sending out press releases and opinion articles, to desk research, pitching to journalists and assisting on various other projects the team were working on. This can seem scary, but it gives you a great range of experience that you can build on – if, like me, you decide you do want to stay in the industry – or even if you don’t.
It’s not just for millennials!
While my internship was a great way to start in an entirely new field, there’s also been a recent rise in what have been coined “returnships”. These are higher-level internships that act as a bridge back to senior roles for professionals who may have taken an extended career break. These could be a great way for women and men alike, who may have stopped working to have children, to consider re-entering the world of work without having to start from scratch.
Now’s the time to try
Whatever your level, if you’re thinking of pursuing a career in PR, there’s never been a better time. The two public relations industry bodies – the CIPR and the PRCA – announced last month that they are teaming up to offer the “Career Ready” partnership, which aims to promote volunteering opportunities, including internships, masterclasses and mentoring to PR professionals.
In an increasingly crowded working world, internships are a fantastic first step on, or back onto, the career ladder. So, why not give it a go – you never know what you might end up enjoying!
Chloe is an Account Executive in the London office