Dalkey Archive ad raises questions about fairness of ‘internships’
An advertisement by Dalkey Archive Press for interns for its new London office went viral today, sparking outrage online for putting ridiculous demands on interns who were being asked to work for free. Have you come across employers or job ads looking for interns like this? Is working for free expected of young people where you live?
An advertisement by Dalkey Archive Press for interns for its new London office went viral today, sparking outrage online for appearing to put ridiculous demands on interns who were being asked to work for free.
The ad recommended that candidates should not have “any other commitments (personal or professional) that will interfere with their work at the press (family obligations, degrees to be finished, holidays to be taken, weddings to attend in Rio, etc)”, and included a list of “grounds for immediate dismissal” like “being unavailable at night or on the weekends; failing to meet any goals; giving unsolicited advice about how to run things; taking personal phone calls during work hours; gossiping … surfing the internet while at work”.
It subsequently transpired that the ad was tongue-in-cheek (Laurence Mackin got to the bottom of it and interviewed John O’Brien, the American director of Dalkey Archive Press), but there’s a truth at the heart of it: in a tough jobs market, some employers are taking advantage of the internship system, asking for the sun, moon and stars from young people in return for little or no pay, and in some instances, little valuable experience at the end of it all.
Generation Emigration contributor Bridget Fitzsimons, who will be writing about the ad in the Weekend section of The Irish Times on Saturday, says interning presents a dilemma for people like her who can’t afford to work for free, but want to break into careers like media or publishing where it is now expected of them.
“I’ve often thought of pursuing an internship but the reality is that I simply can’t afford it and there are thousands of graduates in this position,” she says. “It seems to be a Catch 22: to get a job, you need experience, but to get experience, you need a job to give you money to live on while you work for nothing. In many sectors, it seems as if to get anywhere, you must be prepared to work for free.”
Have you come across employers or job ads looking for interns like this, in Ireland and elsewhere? Is working for free expected of young people where you live? If you’ve done an internship like this, what was your experience?