Promising Internship or Free Labour

Having almost completed a Certificate IV in Screen and Media – Journalism, I have been busily applying for entry level journalism and presenting jobs as well as a few internships that would hopefully give me the contacts and skills to progress in the journalism industry.

On Monday I had a seemingly promising interview with the owner of a small Rugby League magazine. I won’t mention any names to remain respectful. My aim of this piece is not to ‘Name and Shame,’ but rather create awareness for other aspiring journalists who I wouldn’t want to wish a similar experience upon. 

The interview started like any other interview. I drove over an hour, to Sydney’s Southern suburbs, fighting traffic and rain. I was dressed to impress and felt confident about the experience I was about to embark upon. 

I arrived at the address, of a small shared office building and wandered to the room number I was given. After knocking several times on the opened door, not manned by a receptionist or anyone working in the crowded space of the room, stacked with magazines and sporting junk. I decided to yell out a friendly ‘hello’ before I tried to call the contact number I was given, to check I was at the right place.

Finally, a man walked out from a small room towards the back and greeted me. He didn’t open his hand to shake, or introduce himself. So I said I was Elana, here for the internship. Instead of shaking my open hand, he said ‘’yes yes come this way,’’ directing me to his office

The man was dressed in ripped jeans, a T-shirt and bare feet. This was surprising for the CEO, owner and editor of the illustrious up and coming magazine. He sat me down, on a couch which I was forced to slump into, as he appeared glaring down at me, from behind the screen of his computer on his large desk covered with papers. As I looked around the room I noticed family pictures, tribal art and quite a sufficient amount of magazine issues stacked messily in two large cupboards.

The interview started normally, like any other I had been to. The man asking me about myself, my studies, previous careers and what I hope to gain from this experience. But the manner he conducted himself after hearing my answers, was just plain rude. At this point, I felt somewhat put down. There was a clear power transfer he had established. Every answer to my question was replied with a sarcastic ‘’Why did you choose that,’’ ‘’At what gain was this choice,’’ and ‘’well you’re this age, you should have achieved this by now.’’

I was a little startled, by the sheer rudeness and insincerity of the man’s questions, I became a bit reserved for the remainder of the interview. But things got worse, as he compared my sporting career’s success to that of his ”promising Olympian daughter,” at a mere five year old. Myself, having being a professional athlete for eighteen years in comparison. 

He continued to speak about himself and his magazine in an obnoxious, hard-to-believe manner. Coupled with sweeping statements of the success of his past internees and the false promises he would make, if I too was successful in this position.

When I asked him simple questions about the duration of the internship and what field I would be placed in or what my responsibilities in this role, his answers there were also very vague. I was not convinced this man was going to be the golden ticket to kick-starting my successful journalism career. But me being the determined, persevering woman I am; I stupidly agreed to work for him following that interview. For what he said would be ‘an hour or so,’ that day to gain a grasp of my work ethic and see if I would be suited for his workplace.

An hour quickly turned into FIVE, without a break, without lunch and without gain. Other than the free labour of doing this man’s research, technical work and essentially publishing one of his magazines online for him. During this time, the man also left me alone in his office, while he ‘’quickly caught up with a mate over a coffee,’’ for a forty minute lunch break. And on his return interviewed another woman, for my positon in the same office I was working for him from. 

I’d had enough, this was becoming a joke and after personally having breakfast over 6 hours ago; I was starving.

I’m not the kind of woman who would let anyone walk over her, or take advantage of. I could see through this transparent type of personality. Whose success of his business could have been from stepping on other people’s toes; rather than good networking partnerships and hard work ethic that as I was first lead to believe.

This story is simply an example of young, smart female who was taken advantage of in the workplace. Although it was not nearly as bad as it could’ve been and fortunately I got out before I was made to do any more free work for this amateur operating business. It proves how quickly you can fall into the trap, while on the persevering path to success.

Here are some quick examples of a similar story, gone wrong:

journalism1journalism2

 

Of course, if this internship was a genuine, promising, inspiring career opportunity I would have stuck it out. But after being talked down to, blatantly insulted, given minimal direction and instructions for work and what was expected of me for that afternoon. And spending my day doing unpaid work for a business I thought I was only attending an interview for. I decided to let another person figure out if that path was right for them. My gut certainly told me it wasn’t right for me.

I want to remind you to not let anything to get in your way of what seems like a genuine and promising opportunity. But please remain wide-eyed, vigilant and true to your gut. Things aren’t always what they seem, but your success should never be brought – keep earning it. Keep working hard and never let anyone take advantage of you.

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