Publisher's tongue in cheek intern ad rang true
COMMENT:An advert specified spoof working conditions this week that will be familiar to young job seekers
On Thursday morning Dalkey Archive Press, an American publishing house with an office in Dublin, posted an advertisement for interns on its website. The ad was widely shared on social networks and quickly went viral because of a number of apparently stringent working conditions it specified.
Among other things, Dalkey Archive Press requested that interns have no other “commitments (personal or professional) that will interfere with their work at the Press”. It made applicants aware that they would be dismissed if they came in late, left early or were unavailable to work evenings and weekends.
When John O’Brien of Dalkey Archive Press defended the advertisement to The Irish Times, calling it “tongue in cheek”, he arguably made matters worse, because he elaborated that interns “have to do something worthwhile for the company”, as “they don’t have much to offer, because they don’t have the knowledge or experience to do very much”.
These sentiments will be familiar to anyone attempting to find work in Ireland at the moment.
I was lucky to complete a summer’s internship at the Irish Farmers Journal in 2009. After editing a student newspaper, I wanted to attempt a career in journalism, but the prospect of unpaid internships was daunting, as I was not in a position to work for no pay.
I prioritised getting any paying job while writing on the side, something I continue to do. For people who can’t afford to work without pay, interning presents a catch-22: to get a job you need experience, but to get experience you need a job, and to intern unpaid you need another job for money to live on.
In a jobs market where applicants are lucky to get a rejection response, interning is an option more people are pursuing to get any kind of experience.
Seán McGovern, a 23-year-old from Longford, is on a paid internship at Verso, a publisher in London. His experience there has been positive, but he has heard “horror stories” from friends elsewhere. “Somehow, the law that protects workers has been up for interpretation,” he says.
For Dave Reilly, a 20-year-old studying politics and German at University Colelge Dublin, interning at Dáil Éireann was beneficial. Although the internship was unpaid, Reilly worked “on projects related to the job outside of the office, since I enjoyed it so much”.
He left the internship early when he was offered another paid job, but he says he would have no qualms recommending interning to other young people as “one of the keys to success in contemporary Ireland”.
Quinton O’Reilly, a 24-year-old writer from Oldcastle, in Co Meath, was offered a paid position after his internship at the digital marketing agency Simply Zesty, where he is still employed.
He credits his employers for their honesty about his chances of becoming a paid employee at the end of his internship. He says employers providing false hope is “almost as big a problem as not paying people for their efforts”.
For Eleanor Rosney, a 23-year-old legal editor from Killarney, the lack of support from Government bodies proved the most frustrating aspect of interning.
Though Rosney enjoyed an internship with the Sunday Business Post newspaper, when she asked about the possibility of Government help she was told she was ineligible for social welfare, as she wasn’t available for work. “Instead of working, albeit for free, in a field I was very keen to make a career in, [the Department of Social Protection] wanted me at home, surfing the internet for work and emailing CVs.”
As a writer specialising in online social media, O’Reilly was unimpressed with the Dalkey Archive Press ad, saying it could be easily misconstrued. “If the language used was playful or irrelevant, you could excuse it,” he says, “but since it was written like a manifesto, it certainly didn’t feel ironic.”