corporate volunteer

The internship – a gateway into the corporate world of opportunity and promise.  The first step on the ladder, the rite of passage from university to respectable adult work!

I just started my internship last week.  I had some big ideas.  I printed business cards, bought some corporate-looking clothes, and read up on polisci stuff that would make me sound smart and intriguing.   In the checkout line of Primark, navy blue dress suit in the mesh bag, I imagined myself leaning over a board table with some mover-shaker, (maybe an MP, why not?) giving them some advice on their proposal.  They would nod their head thoughtfully, I’d slide my smart, glossy card across the table, they would scratch their chin and turn to their assistant –

‘Don’t we have a position opening up in the Department of Awesome Intriguing World Policy?  We could use some ideas like yours on our team.’

I would try to contain my excitement and say something sly and witty.  The job would have regular travel to Paris.

Last week I worked on a database, mining the internet for the top 100 executives’ addresses and contact details.  On the slowest computer EVER.  It took 17 seconds just to open a tab.  26 seconds for google to perform a search.  15 minutes to shut down.  I sat at said computer all day and barely spoke to anyone.  There was no mention of Paris.  Not even once.

Let’s be honest here.  Internships are not what they used to be.  They are getting so competitive now that some companies can’t be bothered to pay you for your time.   Well, with the market oozing with overqualified, fresh, young talent, who can blame them?  Why pay for it when you can get it for free, or nearly free?

So let’s call it what it is  – volunteering for the Man.  I volunteer my time for your company, and in exchange I expect (nay, hope against hope!) that the extra few lines on my CV will catch someone’s eye in the HR department and land me that illusive job.

But what if it doesn’t?

One of my LSE compatriots interned on minimum wage for half a year, only to find no job waiting at the end.  A fellow corporate volunteer at my office  actually extended his internship, because he’s had no luck finding a job.  This was not his first internship, either.  He’s thinking of going back to uni for a graduate degree, though all he wants to do is get out there and work.

Like a good American, I choose to ignore the statistics and maintain my wild optimism.

Maybe next week.  I will keep the navy dress suit pressed, just in case.

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