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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?

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 12:27:36

"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?"


Those very same people would never have agreed to do unpaid internships when they were 19 that they now expect other people to take.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 12:28:04

All that is true of jobs, limitedperiodonly, but this is not a "job". This person isn't going to be doing things for the university as I understand it, they are going to get the use of university resources for their research, and have a prestigious name they can put on their CV. Just no money. There are other problems with it, as I said, but the exploitation angle has been covered above and is not really relevant.

Iodine Wed 14-Nov-12 12:31:16

I can't afford to do work like this now to get experience for my CV. I have done in the past and it led to shit all. Even being told "you were the best project student we have ever had" in a reference is not enough for that person to offer you a job.

Paying my own expenses for travel, parking etc would seriously mean not eating or paying the rent.

People are frustrated. They shouldn't be taken out on you though. I went to an interview the other day for a position that was advertised as permanent. It had involved travel and a lot of time and effort to prepare. They then announced it was a temp job to finish after xmas and effectively called us all liars when we said it wasn't advertised as that. THAT is why people are angry. Job seekers are treated like dirt by companies.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 12:33:21

beta, limited, can you explain why you think this is exploitative?

The university isn't getting a job done for them.

The university will only benefit in the extremely tenuous sense that they get to say 'look, we have a research community including these people, isn't it nice?'.

They don't even get to submit these people's publications to the REF.

It is as mulled says.

And btw, I am certainly not a middle-aged exploiter expecting others to do a job I wouldn't have done - I am younger than these people, and I am not eligible to apply, but next year I may be, and I would like not to find that the scheme has been discontinued because some people are too precious to accept it.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 12:36:03

My impression is that the sort of person this is aimed at is not someone who wants to get a job in a different industry. It's someone who needs to be doing the work they would do for it anyway, but who would otherwise be doing it without the benefit of access to research materials and a space to work.

Of course I can see that for some people, they just can't afford to take up the offer - it's too expensive to travel in and use the research space, or even though they want to do the same work, their paid job takes up so much time they'll have to do it at a much slower rate.

Ok, that is tough, and I do see that. But lots of people who are struggling for money would find it useful.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 12:36:37

I am certainly not a middle-aged exploiter expecting others to do a job I wouldn't have done

Nope, nor me. I'm 33 and I've done actual work for free, and I wouldn't recommend it for the reasons Iodine says. But this - if I could afford it - I would jump at because it's not working for free for someone else, it's working for me with resources provided.

The main problem with it as LRD said is that not everyone will be able to afford to do it.

bigkidsdidit Wed 14-Nov-12 12:38:04

I don't understand option 2. I was paid 20k a year for my phd and when I finished there were piles of jobs to go for. Is science completely different to your fields? It sounds really hard whereas mine was easy peasy (except the actual science, obvs )

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 12:41:36

grin Um, yes!

Science is completely different and I am green with envy.

You lucky lot actually do useful stuff, you see. wink

An AHRC grant is minimum wage (adjusted for not paying tax), and most of the jobs I'm applying for have a hundred applicants or so.

I think it has got dramatically worse since the recession, though, for obvious reasons.

bigkidsdidit Wed 14-Nov-12 12:42:17

Blimey. I'm sorry shock

I had no idea.

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 12:47:10

Maybe there should be some kind of STEM-HASS buddy scheme - "Sponsor an archaeologist" grin

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 12:48:55

Oh, why should you, big? It's fine. Just feel smug, ok? grin

mulled - I like this idea ...

NotGoodNotBad Wed 14-Nov-12 12:53:14

"Years ago, it was perfectly normal to work for subsistence money on an internship, or while you "served your time" in manual jobs. I'm 38, and I worked for 2 years in an Accountancy practice for practically nothing, while I qualified."

How much was "practically nothing"? Was it more than nothing? Was it actually subsistence, i.e. enough to live on? Big difference between being low-paid and working for nothing.

ethelb Wed 14-Nov-12 12:53:32

Its not the fact that it is unpaid. Many will have accepted they will need to do some unpaid work experience. I have done similar. But I would have been v pissed off at the notion that I should be pleased I had won it as a 'prize'.

What a way to undermine the workers ability. Oh, and all other workers in the sector.

MoreBeta Wed 14-Nov-12 12:57:44

I copied this from a recent Financial Times Article.

"FTSE 100 directors’ median pay rose by 10 per cent last year – more than six times the increase in overall average earnings – despite a sharp slowdown in basic pay and bonuses, a report has found."

Here is another headline from a recent Guardian article:

"University vice-chancellors take average £9,700 pay riseHeads of elite universities' earnings exceed £333,000 on average, despite squeeze on institutions' overall budgets

I am spotting a trend here. Top people's pay keeps on going up but they use the excuse that budgets need to be cut as the economy is in trouble so ordinary members of staff have to take a pay cut or work for nothing as an intern and be grateful.

It is exploitation and people are getting sick of it.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 12:57:49

Oh, ok, that's making me think a bit ethel. But then, if it wasn't competitive, it'd be no good on the CV, and it'd presumably be first-come-first-served or something like that, which seems equally unfair in a different way.

I do need to think about what you're saying though, since someone has just said very similar - that she is qualified already so it is rude to expect her to compete again.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 12:59:26

beta, honestly, you're not making sense. How is this situation exploitative?

You're still talking about a situation where the work an intern does is contributing to their university but not being recompensed. I don't see how this does contribute - or certainly, how it contributes more than the very modest cost (to the university) of covering that person's workspace and subscriptions.

LessMissAbs Wed 14-Nov-12 13:00:23

I am a university lecturer, and have gradually seen my terms, conditions and pay eroded in real terms and now I've seen it all, expecting people to do skilled research for free. Offering unpaid research positions is bad enough, but to expect vulnerable, young people to compete for them is taking the mickey. Very few people can afford to do unpaid posts such as this anyway, and research is diffucult, time consuming and only utilises skills learnt during the degree anyway. Its of dubious value as work experience, as any employers outwith academia are likely to see it as too academic, more so if it is unpaid. Which any future employer is going to ask about.

Its a horrific idea, as I remember one of my first jobs on graduating was paid research one summer, for which I was very grateful. It wasn't well paid, but it kept the wolf from the door and led onto other part time ad hoc paid work. If it it had been unpaid, I simply wouldn't have been able to do it, and would have to have worked in a supermarket or pub instead, and some other student with family backing would have done it.

Most universities offer former students use of library facilities for very small charge anyway, or will provide for nothing if asked.

I think the whole idea stinks. Universities are publicly funded bodies, and should not be exploiting young people in this manner. Different if a qualification was being given at the end of it, or guaranteed publication in a journal, which is what these competitions normally offer.

ethelb Wed 14-Nov-12 13:01:27

You need to get rid of the idea of prize and 'competition'. People apply for it, someone gets chosen like they would for any other position.

I don't think of my job as a prize.

midseasonsale Wed 14-Nov-12 13:06:38

The idea of unpaid work experience is great as a steppingstone into he work place but it's only practical if you have financial backing. There is still food to buy, rent to pay, bills to pay, transport costs etc ..

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 13:10:01

ethel - it's not 'me' offering it, and it wasn't offered as a prize. Not sure where you got that from? confused

It's simply presented as competition for a non-stipendiary post.

I am absolutely sure this isn't intended for people to do instead of a paid job - it is intended as a stop gap while someone is failing to get a paid academic job.

MrsHoarder Wed 14-Nov-12 13:18:21

Why can't you just give all graduates access to the library for a year and offer a system to help them publish papers?

Most won't take you up on it, its clearly not exploitive and it will help the employability of the students. When I decided to do an msc I was able to use the local city university libraries and my old university library free of charge as long as I read the books/journals there. Was a good use of my tine on jsa(pee-baby)

MulledWineOnTheBusLady Wed 14-Nov-12 13:20:48

I think ethelb's point is similar to mine, really. What's on offer is not really something that people will readily consider a "post". I see why people are querying why it can't just be extended to more places - it can't be the case that the library is operating on such tight margins that it can only physically bear one more person.

I'm puzzled however at the number of academics here who seem to think that doing research unpaid means you're doing it for someone else. I suspect there may be some basic misunderstanding here about how different subjects work?

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 13:21:23

Because it has nothing to do with me, except I would like to be able to apply next year, mrshoarder.

As to why - I don't see why they couldn't offer everyone access and I wish they would. They can't possibly offer everyone research space - they're really short of space. I'm not sure what help they should be providing to help us publish papers - my supervisors are brilliant and spend a lot of time helping me, and I know other people who've graduated (and who're therefore eligible for this) are still getting lots of support.

I think universities vary in terms of what they let you do free - my undergrad university still lets me borrow books, which is amazing, though I left in 2007. My masters library still lets me use the books but I can't borrow. And my current place requires students who've left to pay to use the library. That's a big issue if (like most of us) you're holding down a pretty low-paid job while you write up or try to get published.

LessMissAbs Wed 14-Nov-12 13:22:52

*ethel - it's not 'me' offering it, and it wasn't offered as a prize. Not sure where you got that from?

It's simply presented as competition for a non-stipendiary post.*

So its an interview process for an unpaid position then?

Or is it an offer to provide research facilities to an unpaid researcher?

Is the research to be guided in any way? Is it to achieve a purpose?

My alma mater offers its library facilities, including online, for £170 per annum to former students. This includes sitting in the library, at a desk, or in a computer lab, at a desk, as long as you want.

Tbh, I suspect the reaction is due to most people being unsure as to what it is. Yourself included. If you are having to constantly explain what it is, then that indicates it probably too vague a concept for people to understand.

I'm afraid I cannot see the point in it. Why not offer some paid ad hoc teaching work at the standard hourly rate instead, including updating of materials, at which point the successful candidate would benefit from peer contact and have something meaningful to put on their cv?

I am really grateful for all the people who helped me when I was at this stage in my career. I remember travelling to a two week post at the other end of the country, for specific experience, thinking it would be unpaid, only to be asked for my bank account details when I turned up. So many people in higher positions saw it as their "duty" to help the young coming through, although in many cases it gave them no benefit at all. Certainly no-one ever expected me to work for free, and expected me to grateful for it. It cheapens the whole academic subject if you start doing that.

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 14-Nov-12 13:25:42

less - don't think they interview, it just says you have to justify why you want it and they'll take the best candidate.

The research isn't guided in any way.

£170 is a lot if you are on minimum wage, but I think it's the same here. sad

It may be they've just been too vague - that's a good point, and I might get back and say that (along with the point about lots of people seeming unsure about the wording of it, which someone made upthread).

We end up competing for teaching too - there are more of us than there are courses, and priority is given to current students.

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