Ever since fashion embraced the unseemly habit of employing ‘interns’ – i.e. free people – beauty has gradually started to follow suit. Now, I know we are in tricky economic times, but there’s just no excuse for the ‘job’ sections in relevant publications (Diary Directory, that’s you for one) to be advertising almost exclusively internships. The idea that you work for free before you are deemed worthy of a paid job is just horrible – and makes me wonder what exactly the point of slogging your heart out at university was all for. The more we accept this practice, the more commonplace it will become, and for young women (mainly) to be expected to do their turn at wageless employment in the beauty industry stinks. Not only does it mark the employer out as an immediate cheapskate (because there really is something a little ‘Scrooge’ about guiltlessly abusing someone’s desperation to get a job in beauty), but it also reveals something more. What it’s really saying is that employers would rather have something for nothing than give up anything themselves. I don’t really see any evidence for example, of company cars disappearing to pay for a new employee, instead, the car stays but the employee works for free. Cutting back shouldn’t mean free staff! That’s not cutting back, that’s taking the P. I speak to many, many interns in the course of a week – some even email using the address ‘intern@’ – nobody bothered even to give them a named email address – and my goodness, they’re always keen (if at times, a little clueless)! But who are these people who can work for nothing? Well, it can’t really be any other than an elite few whose parents can foot the bill for their endeavours. Given that there is a general media bemoaning that there are no ‘real’ people (and we all know what that’s code for) working in the industry, internships are ensuring that it stays that way. Girls without financial backing never have a hope in hell of being an intern. That can only be to the detrement of ‘real’ readers in the case of magazines and papers. Working for nothing at a PR agency won’t bring you any closer to the editors and celebrities: nine times out of ten you’ll be relegated to filing and phone answering, mail outs and post office duties – back in the day, that was a paid job. So, what to do about the increase of free labour that’s becoming expected in this industry? It’s a thoroughly nasty catch 22 – for every potential intern that refuses to work for free, ten others will jump in line to snap up the job while parents foot the fees, delighted that Anastasia has a proper sounding job (we’ll just skate over them still having to feed and clothe their university educated child though). And, lets not forget that there is no job guarantee at the end of your gift to the world of beauty. You are more likely to be offered another internship than a paid job in this industry. My solution? I wish I had one, but a thought – if publications stopped advertising intern positions unless they are paid ones (even nominal is better than nothing), it would be much harder for companies to recruit freebies. And just maybe that might attach an appropriate stigma to asking for graduates gratis.
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