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to be biting my tongue and think they are being twits about jobs/unpaid experience?

(229 Posts)
LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 08:53:02

I am this close to snapping back about this so just want to see if I am BU or if you can tell me to be a nicer person.

A few days ago I was asked to publicize a competition which has been set up to give people an unpaid position, while they're looking for the paid equivalent. They'd also get space to work and access to various subscription-only stuff you'd need. Jobs are very competitive so there are lots of people who will be in the position of not having found one yet, so the fact this is competitive too, means it would be better on your CV than a blank.

Obviously I know it won't be for everyone. It isn't anything to do with me as an initiative - I was literally just asked to spread the word. So I did. People now keep responding and asking what it's for, saying they don't see why it's made competitive 'as they could just give it to everyone' and saying it's pointless as it doesn't pay anything. I replied a couple of times saying why I thought it was being offered and I'm now giving up.

Am I being unreasonable to think they are being idiots? Here they are, they haven't managed to get jobs, but they're turning their noses up at this and seem to have no understanding why there might be competition for it. I made it clear I am just passing on information and am still getting these stupid snooty comments about how they wouldn't choose to do this, etc. etc.

I am so tempted to reply pointing out that beggars can't be choosers. AIBU?

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 09:52:13

Maybe that's it, parsing.

Thanks, happy! I will. I'm not really advertising it though - I am just passing on the word - I just don't want them to discontinue the scheme before next year.

ParsingFancy Wed 14-Nov-12 09:52:34

Ah, FloggingMolly, you've missed a big change.

Current internships aren't subsistence money - they're no money. Or travel expenses only.

ParsingFancy Wed 14-Nov-12 09:57:37

LRD, are you able to discuss wording with the organization? Find a less ambiguous and snazzy but I can't do that bit name for the scheme? (the "Ultra-Prestigious Institute Open-Desk Programme")

It does sound like a good scheme, and it would be a shame if it were discontinued for such a small glitch.

IvorHughJanusAndABulgingSack Wed 14-Nov-12 09:57:45

I had a look at various internships after finishing my MSc. The majority of them specified set hours and days every week and paid nothing. Not even travel expenses. I couldn't do it so the internships all went to people from families who could support them working for free so that their CV looked marvellous and they could then move into paid positions with good companies because they had the sort of work experience those companies demand, which is impossible to get otherwise. It's incredibly elitist IMO.

I'm not disagreeing with what you're offering, LRD, just explaining to FloggingMolly that you just don't get subsistence money anymore for things like that.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 10:04:39

Ask yourself this.

Why did subsistence money get paid in the past and not now?

What has changed? People still need to have money to eat. Its just that employers know people are desperate and will work for nothing in the vague hope of getting a job. Lets be blunt, there are employers who just recruit one intern after another and never recruit any of them.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 10:05:24

parsing - nooo! Honestly, I am really just passing the word on. I have nothing to do with it except I am really hoping it doesn't get discontinued for my year group. That's all.

I do think the whole system is elitist, so I agree, ivor - but this element of it, I think, isn't. I think it's an honest attempt to help people in a difficult employment situation plug gaps in their CVs. I think they are fully aware everyone wants a paying job, and just want to provide this so people can maybe have a bit of a helping hand towards that.

Floggingmolly Wed 14-Nov-12 10:05:26

Oh no, I get that, Ivor, just making a clumsy point about entitled brats, not the fact that it's unpaid grin and blush

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 10:05:58

more - yes, very true, but what do you suggest we do about it?!

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 10:11:45

LRD - you asked this question.

"Am I being unreasonable to think they are being idiots?"

Yes YABU. People are not stupid. They know they are being conned. Nothing we can do about it. However, dont be surprised if potential candidates question why they should expected to allow themselves to be exploited and they say they are not happy.

I am not in the least bit surprised people are questioning why they have to compete for an unpaid job.

I dont work for anyone unpaid and neither should anyone else. If a job is not one that an employer is willing to pay for then it is not a job worth doing.

AThingInYourLife Wed 14-Nov-12 10:11:50

Expecting to be paid for work you do makes you an "entitled brat" these days?

In fact, the unpaid internship system gives a massive advantage to actual entitled brats. It's the way the jobs they feel they are entitled to are kept out of the reach of riff raff who can't afford to work for free.

ParsingFancy Wed 14-Nov-12 10:14:12

Gwan, LRD, seize the nettle! Give feedback!

<shoves LRD towards keyboard>


LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 10:15:15

But how is it a con, morebeta?

They are being offered something that gives virtually no benefit to the university, and a modest benefit to them. Conned?!

Why do you think it is exploitative?

I did explain upthread about who would benefit from their work. I do wonder if perhaps you are looking at this as someone in a discipline where work is more collaborative, and an unpaid contributor's work would simply be taken credit for by the team when she or he moved on?

I can see some people can't afford to do this at all. But lots more would be able to juggle this and a paid job. So they would end up better off than those of us who only have the paid job, and are also struggling to pay library subscription and find a workspace.

If paid positions were easy to get, I'd understand - but they're not.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 10:15:46

grin at parsing.

Ok, I will try a gentle email saying what comments I've been getting ...

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 10:17:48

AthingInYourLife - very true. Look at all the interns working unpaid in Parliament in the hope of getting a nice safe seat in future years. Many of the leadership positions in all three main parties are held by people who worked as interns straight after university.

Unpaid internships are becoming endemic in the UK and does stop talented young peple getting into positions of influence. Honestly we are going back to the Victorian age in working practices.

UK universities (especially Oxford and Cambridge) used to be stuffed full of gentleman academics with an inheritance to live off and promoting each other. We are going back to that model again.

Whatnowffs Wed 14-Nov-12 10:17:50

I work as an unpaid researcher in a university environment. I don't have fixed hours and have found that i haven't been able to commit to it very well as i have been trying to look for work, run a home etc - its funny how much you have to do when you aren't working so this "job" has had to take a real backseat.

It has done mases for my confidence though and i wish i had more time to commit to it as its in an area of work i am trying to get back into.

I think YANBU apart from your last comment in the OP, as yes beggars can't be choosers but it is hard to commit to soemthing when you are not being paid (in monetary terms, i actually feel guilty for doing my voluntary stuff!)

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 10:21:08

morebeta, I can understand and sympathize with your annoyance at the way it's becoming increasingly difficult to get into academia without being well off.

I can't understand why you think this is helping out rich people, though: it is quite obviously going to help people who are struggling.

what - fair point, yes, I can see that.

Whatnowffs Wed 14-Nov-12 10:24:55

Also, travel expenses etc not paid to me either and this really restricts me, its a ten mile journey which i usually make by bike that isn't always feasible in foul weather. (the journey is actually completely off road so stupidly muddy)

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 10:26:52

My understanding is, there's two ways getting into this job market go:

1) You are well-off. You do a PhD (maybe it's funded, maybe not). It takes you 3 years, maybe 4, because you don't work alongside it. You can afford conferences and research trips (which makes your work go more quickly, boosts your CV, and probably helps you get published). You don't worry about going into your 4th year and having to pay extra, so if you need more time to get that publication out, you go for it.

You then apply for postdocs. The most prestigious of these (and the most numerous) are timetabled so that the majority of people will find they can only apply when they're nearly finished, for a job that doesn't start for another year. But you're ok with that: you will spend the spare year publishing a little more or perhaps doing some other job you pick up.

You can afford to apply for the prestigious job, btw, not the better-paid but less prestigious ones, because the prestigious ones are still not, TBH, brilliant.

2) You are not well-off. You rely on getting funding. It is minimum wage. You apply for travel grants/conference discounts but you still need a job on the side. It therefore takes you longer to finish, longer to publish, and you have less access to research materials and conferences.

If you take longer to finish, you look less good. Your CV has fewer publications/conferences - you look less good.

You apply for postdocs, but you may not be able to affor to wait a year between applying and starting.

You will almost inevitably have a year or so after you finish the PhD, during which you try frantically to get published in your spare time while not funded, and while you work a day job. You will have to pay to use the library, and you no longer have a space to work except at home (which may be fine or may not).


Surely this sort of position, though not perfect, is going to help the vast majority of people in situation 2?

PanickingIdiot Wed 14-Nov-12 10:27:35

I can see why people are annoyed.

BUT taking their frustration out on you is unprofessional and unlikely to win them any brownie points. If they don't like the offer, they're free not to apply.

I used to help out with recruiting in a former job and I was also amazed at the amount of abuse we got from supposedly highly qualified and skilled people, because they didn't like the conditions we offered. Yes, there are a lot of 'offers' out there that are bordering on scam and a lot of companies exploit the desperate. Welcome to life. Being snotty with the recruiter or the company won't make them up the offer, it would just make the applicant look like a nutter.

Whatnowffs Wed 14-Nov-12 10:30:37

I was in situation 2, which is why i am doing the vol work (also had career break). I don't think anyone goes into academia to get rich!

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 10:31:39

grin This is true, what.

panicking - well, I'm glad to know this isn't unusual, then.

I suppose possibly you do get to a point when you're fed up about scams. But still ...

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 11:18:00

I can sort of see their point (though no excuse for rudeness). I think the idea does fall between two stools a bit.

Either it can be a paid post and rare as hen's teeth and competitive as alligator snooker, like all the rest. Or it can involve just provision of a few resources whose overheads cost pennies to the institution, in which case why aren't they being a bit more glad-handed with it? I can see the force of the argument "Why just one post?" Obviously you can't allow everyone who shows up to wander round using the library and the workspaces, that would be silly, and there does have to be some competition/quality control to ensure the resources are being used in the best possible cause. But equally I don't see why something like this would be pitched in the same way as proper research posts.

Some people, of course, are going to be annoyed because they can't afford to apply, which is also understandable. But I think it is mostly the disconnect between what is on offer and how it is being presented. I think talking in terms of (say), a "scheme" rather than a position would have got a different result.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 11:23:26

Panicking - if you were doing what a lot of firms do which is to advertise a fairly senior position and then when making offers put the pay level at that of a junior position I have no doubt you got abuse.

Recently, I was in that position applying for an academic job that was at a senior position but they pulled a stunt on the salary that meanst I was in fact going to be the lowest paid in the department. I told the employer to politely get lost in the end.

People put a lot of time and effort into applying for a job and if in a senior position obvioulsy expect pay and conditions that acknowledge their skills and experience. Offering them a junior salary having dragged them through a recruitment process is not surprisingly going to annoy them intensely because it shows the potential employer is not serious and just looking to lower its costs by exploiting someone.

PanickingIdiot Wed 14-Nov-12 12:15:11

I agree with the sentiment, MoreBeta, but it's not an excuse for abuse or indeed any unprofessional behaviour. I usually side with the underdog in matters of fairness in employment, but people who blow it by being twats just end up being ridiculed on the internet and their CVs thrown in the round file.

I didn't have a say in determining the conditions of the jobs we advertised for. Nor did the OP, in her case. If you think an offer is not good enough, you're free to turn it down, or better yet, don't even apply. If I started to write angry letters in response to every job I didn't want, I wouldn't have time left for much else. And it would hardly advance my career.

I found it very surprising that people who were trying to brand themselves as serious professionals weren't able to show the most basic politeness or tact when dealing with a company that might employ them. Yet they thought they deserved high salaries and prestige and whatnot.

limitedperiodonly Wed 14-Nov-12 12:19:46

Unpaid labour is destroying jobs and distorting the job market for everyone at every level except for the companies who indulge in it and this government who promote it.

If there is a job to be done then it should be filled at the appropriate rate of pay.

How many middle-aged people lucky to still be in work who are supporting these schemes and calling people lazy for getting angry at what it's doing to the economy took part in this form of exploitation 25 years ago?

At 19, which was a long time ago, I did a week's work experience at a local business that recruited from my college because they were looking for people specifically trained at the highly-competitive, prestigious course that I'd managed to get on to using my excellent A levels.

I'd beaten lots of people to secure my place on the course and was performing well as were most other people who were highly motivated and skilled, if not experienced. That alone was proof of our commitment and ability and was valuable to our CVs. It is an insult to say anything else.

The experience was valuable to both sides and involved practical work - not just marking time for nothing until the next warm body came in for nothing to hang around the office and help the Department of Work and Pensions massage the unemployment figures.

(I notice today that they've gone up BTW).

It must have taken the firm just a day to realise they wanted me because they were really looking to recruit the right person for a real job, not the open-ended unpaid arrangements that people hang on for now and are told they should be grateful for.

They offered me a proper job with protection and an apprenticeship built in for when I finished my course six months later. I will always be glad of that opportunity but was I lucky? No, I bloody worked for it.

What firms and the government are doing now is just exploitation leading to no growth in jobs and a diminution of hard-won employment rights and I can't believe that more people aren't protesting about it.

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