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Auctions for Internships - a backwards step for climbing the career ladder


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As summer approaches, it means one thing for many university students: work experience. Gone are the days when young students saw the four month summer period as a chance to kick back and watch some much missed episodes of Jezza and troll off on the ubiquitous tequila and sun soaked trip to Marbs, after scraping together a few quid working at marks and sparks or flipping burgers at music festivals.

Nowadays students plough through jobsites in the scrap to the death for 10 weeks work experience in an office, doing what is professionally known as an Internship or Career Placement.

Getting your foot in the order by completing a work internship can give graduates solid contacts and a platform to network. It's goldust on your CV in the competive job climate, where experience is desired more than ever. Where once it seemed that a solid 2:1 degree was enough, nowadays employers ask for up to eight years work experience and an array of other half baked credentials such as being Social Secretary for the Cheese Appreciation Society.

Now I don't know about you, but when I was 12 years old I was watching Saved by the Bell and attempting to win the Pokémon league, not sending out my CV in the hopes of getting my first paid job. The first step on the career ladder is often unavoidable - it's the Catch 22, the socialist chicken or the egg. You can't get a job without experience, and you can't get experience without a job.

Employers know full well that there is a huge market for young people clamouring for work experience, who are willing to travel far and with little if no money. If you're lucky, expenses are paid. Internships, in this way, are a relevantly new phenomenon. And whilst some can give you the experience needed for when you enter the big bad world of real employment, a glowing reference and the chance to do a bit of name dropping, others feed off young people willing to work for nothing.

But is it all fetching blueberry muffins and making sugary tea for the big cheeses? Or are there real opportunities out there for undergraduates looking to gain genuine experience in their desired career?

An example of the dark side of work experience comes from the Conservative Black and White Party, which features a typical auction to raise funds. Included in these auctions came the fight for internships from well heeled party goers who were pledging up to £3,000 for their silver spoon offspring in some of the UK's biggest finance and political institutions. Being well connected, it seems, and wealthy is more important than being a decent hard working student.

This dishing out of places based on cash pay outs is just one example of the greed of big companies. There's a killing to be made in taking on unpaid and eager young people desperately trying get their leg over on the huge competition, simply because they can, and because thousands are willing to work for free.

It's a sad affair that many a company will be missing out on the wreath of talented young students in favour of a slice of the narrow elite, and gives internships and their value a bad name. With fees rocketing and jobs dwindling, the fight for competition is fierce than ever. It's up to the government to fight this system of near corruption, where having dinner with the big boys is more important than real work ethic and talent. Not only would it give everyone an even footing on getting where they want to be, but it can only be a good thing if the media and financial institutions of this country are benefited with exceptional young talent, not can't be arsed tea caddies.

But for those without the benefit of rich parents can take some comfort in the knowledge that any internship they go for has been well thought out with their future ambition in mind, and that they won't be leaving at the end of the summer with two months worth of mistakes glossed over and a bag full of receipts from prêt a manger. They'll know that it isn't all about who you know, but what you know.

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