An intern’s angry outburst

Again and again the media talk and write about the exploitation of interns. Some who had discussed this, too, now received bitter complaints by an Austrian student.

23 year old Sinah D’s last week’s post on the media platform TheBlackShirtBlog advanced to a viral hit with hundreds of comments. Literally, she writes that she is upset about “all the companies that let people work full-time for an ass-filth-internship salary” and then expect them “to smile and say thank you”. And the names she mentions are not only clammy no-names or start-ups but well known media addresses as the newspaper Standard or the national TV station ORF. She even states that with 700 euros for 40 or more hours per week she had earned relatively well compared to the industry average. 400 euros or less were more usual for the full-time drudgery.

In her article entitled “Thank you for (almost) nothing” she continues speaking of young people who came into the companies motivated, unprejudiced and full of expectations. And then they meet employers about who she writes: “… you who have been farting into your finest leather boss chairs since 1996 and talking about big visions, team spirit and delegation (…) actually ruin our expectations of working life”.

Sinah does not understand why her work is worth less than the “other one’s”. Above all, youngsters like her basically spend their entire period of study in bloody internships instead of lecture halls and libraries without being able to make a living. Not everyone has parents able to fund a study including the bare expenses for their children, as she points out. But everybody accepts this “work for dumping prices” just to make sure to later get a job.

“We are not greedy for money which is perhaps our greatest disadvantage”, the 23-year-old woman concludes. A typical Generation Y attitude? Maybe. Sinah D.’s courageous blogpost has received many favorable reviews. But not only. Other former interns do not share her opinion at all. “Get off the moral high ground”, as the now 30 year-old former intern David P. comments. Nobody out there waits for a young undergraduate student, says the blogger. Above all, he argues that interns are not only productive but also produce a lot of work for their trainers.

For example, as intern in a PR agency he had needed a long time until he could write acceptable press releases. His supervisor and a volunteer had spent some 30 per cent of their working day only to educate and support him. Full-fledged work is only possible after three months, if at all, he says. And the most practicals don’t last much longer. David P. finally comes to talking about money and remarks that in the first year of training the salaries were often not much higher.

Well, everyone may decide for himself whether Sinah D. revealed an exaggerated expectation. But if renowned media companies still make young people feel that they misemploy their interns just as cheap laborers, they obviously do not meet their desires at all and reveal deficits as employer brands. A big mistake in times of skills shortage. Sinah D’s is probably not an isolated case.

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