According to Quartz, being a social media influencer is the new unpaid internship, but it’s not what you think. A lot of hard work, no wages, and unlikely to lead anywhere. So are graduates expected to become superstar bloggers to find a job?
The unpaid internship is a cruel and often unavoidable beast in the quest for graduate employment. Void of any promises for a position afterwards, they only last until your savings or parents’ funds or patience run dry. Companies take advantage of desperate graduates by taking on cheap labour. Well, not cheap: Free. Cost effective because it is first-world slavery. To add insult to injury, they often have the audacity to ask for experience which, if you’re looking for unpaid internships, you probably don’t have. They will have the decency to cover travel expenses if you’re lucky, but frequently don’t provide so much as a cheese sandwich for lunch.
Much of the time, dependent on the industry, companies request applicants to have already honed their social media craft. Being active on all major social media platforms and knowing how to grow an organic following counts as prerequisite ‘experience’. That’s because every millennial is attached to their phones, and has hundreds of followers already, no? However, any millennial will tell you that keeping those Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat feeds fresh ain’t easy. It’s a part-time job in itself. There’s planning what to snap, the lighting, the witty caption… Yet apparently getting social media savvy might be your first step before you can even start applying!
Being a ‘grafter’ seems to be a key word in these job adverts, too. A ‘self-starter’ is another. These are misleading labels for any millennial who is willing to do more work than they’re paid for. Graduates who feel unworthy of being paid properly for a full day’s work and who are grateful for any job. It defeats the whole purpose of ‘work experience,’ which is to teach interns what it’s like to work in an office environment and to train them. The internship has silently switched definitions to graduate job, and it isn’t fair.
Last year, there were calls in Parliament to ban the unpaid internship. According to The Guardian, studies have shown that graduates who ‘opt’ (we say opt, but many looking for internships actually feel they lack options) for the internship route actually earn less in five years than those who move straight into a full-time job, despite having collected so-called ‘valuable experience.’ However, the bill failed. Nothing has changed. Just look on Indeed. The unpaid internship options are still endless, with no signs of losing popularity.
So why not become a social media star instead? Well, it’s easier said than done. Like our former meritocratic (the wishful ideal that hard work equals success) beliefs toward the unpaid internship, having a unique voice and/or beautiful imagery doesn’t mean you’re going to make it. According to this Quartz article, the democratisation of the media industry is fading. With so many budding bloggers out there, who’s to say that anyone will ‘discover’ you without some outside help? Thus we must rely, again, not on what you know but who you know to succeed.
Still, working on your social media presence is still arguably more useful than an unpaid internship. You can do it from home, for one thing. Plus, if it goes somewhere you can make money from it. Or you can put it down as experience – a portfolio to add to a now social media savvy CV. Either way, it’s more promising than an internship at a little-known company, or making coffees and sorting samples for a bigger one. And you get paid the same amount to begin with: i.e. nothing.
Thus if you have a few months dedicated to not being paid, it’s probably worth investing in your social media instead.
Words: Mimi Davies
Hashtags: #internships #socialmedia