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What’s an internship worth?

I recently read an article in Management today entitled ‘What is an intern worth’ to quote the author Elizabeth Anderson

- “Internships are a tricky subject – on the one hand they provide a young person with valuable experience (now essential for taking the first step into employment). But it also means organisations are getting free labour and some (although not the majority) exploit this.”

After a discussion with my younger brother Shaun, he felt compelled to follow up with his thoughts. Here’s what he had to say:

As a first-year undergraduate student, I am constantly being told by those around me that an internship is the best way to spend my summer: “You may as well spend your summer gaining some experience in your chosen industry whilst making some money”.

After nearly eight months of searching for an internship, I’ve started to think that I’ve just wasted two thirds of my year.

There’s no doubt that there are a large number of internships out there; yet, after reading through masses of job specifications and requirements, it has become evident that larger companies only want to hear from you if you’re a penultimate year student, and smaller companies only want to hear from you if you’re willing to work for free. Unfortunately, I do not fit in to either of those categories.

Of course, there has been the odd exception to this observation, one of which was a paid internship for first-year students advertised by HSBC. However, applying for this internship proved to be yet another waste of time. After completing the long-winded application form for the internship, I was invited to answer a series of questions that could be answered with ‘Yes or No’ to determine whether or not I would be suitable for the position. As you may have guessed, I was not successful. But I couldn’t help question why I was not given the series of ‘Yes or No’ questions before the application form. If my suitability for the position could be deemed by a few easy-to-answer questions, why give me a tedious application form first?

Despite this minor frustration, I continued searching for a summer internship. I eventually stumbled across an internship for Allianz Insurance. After a four month long recruitment process, I was invited to the assessment centre. Once again, I was unsuccessful. All candidates were promised feedback on their performance at the assessment centre; yet, three months have passed, and despite my calls and emails, I have not received any form of reply. If I ever receive some feedback (the chances of which are becoming less likely by the day), I would deem this a worthwhile experience. However, until that day comes, all I can take away from the experience is the memory of being chauffeur-driven to and from the train station…not often you get called “Sir” as a student!

Eventually, due to the lack of first-year opportunities and larger companies seeming reluctant to communicate, I decided to search for internships within smaller companies. Yet, these searches have also proved to be disappointments, as the phrase “unpaid, but travel and lunch expenses covered” has popped up in the majority of the adverts. Although there may be a few students who could afford to take these unpaid internships, the majority of students I know would need some form of income to fund their summer months (whether it be rent for their accommodation at university, or living expenses at home).

Ultimately, there’s no doubt that there are a large number of summer internships available to students. However, it seems as if the majority of these opportunities are only available to a few select groups of students based on educational status and economic well-being. This begs the question: Is an internship really the best way to spend my summer?

-Shaun

The worst interview ever …or maybe not?

This is a true and very recent story ……. My candidate arrived for his fourth and final interview with the partner for a role he really wanted. Fifteen minutes after his due arrival time I received a call from HR – “Your candidate has not arrived and the partner is waiting – can you find out what’s going on ?” So I give him a call – he is there and has been for twenty minutes, all checked in with his badge and sitting patiently in reception. Humble apologies all round from client and the meeting begins

Fifteen minutes into the interview, the fire alarm goes off – although unplanned the general view is that it’s only a test but for some reason they have to find another room. Lots of wandering around and finally the meeting resumes. Ten minutes later the fire alarm goes off again and this time everyone has to evacuate. So, down the stairwell they all troop, the candidate trying to keep chatting to the partner on the way down in amongst the hordes of other people.

Certainly not your average interview and I thought we’d look to reschedule and start again. But no …..back they come with an offer ….although very unusual circumstances they liked what they saw. It adds a whole new dimension to testing how you deal with unexpected situations and how you build rapport in difficult circumstances! So if ever you find yourself in what might seem to be the worst interview ever …..keep calm and carry on and you might be surprised by the outcome!

Beginning a journey…

I remember it very clearly; I was 10 years old and had proudly finished my maths homework – on acute and obtuse angles, no less – and I proudly strutted towards the teachers desk to show off my pencil workings, and receive an honorary gold sticker (yes, I’d have to admit to being a bit of a nerd at the time). Instead, I was greeted with a calamitous booming voice “YOU’VE spelt ‘angel’ wrong, GO AWAY and use a dictionary before handing in homework with INCORRECT spellings’!

My whole world shattered. I distinctly remember a feeling of fear and frustration at the simple fact that I couldn’t, as the teacher -Mr Golding- demanded, simply go away and use a dictionary … because I had no idea of the correct spelling of ‘angle’ to even search for it.

It wasn’t the task that was too great for me, rather the lack of instruction and support that would allow me to complete it.

Okay, I’ll admit the metaphor is a little weak but the intention is the same… I’ve been at BLT for 3 weeks now and despite being thrown into relatively deep waters of holding candidate interviews, database searching and the like, I know that I’ll never feel that same fear and frustration when asked to do new, scary, things.

I join BLT from a background in recruitment for a non-for-profit educational charity, where I specialized in marketing and attraction activities. The world of management consultancy could not be any further away. I find myself picking up jargon at an outstanding rate – lean six sigma (black belt) and MBBB strategy houses are familiar terms to add to my lexicon, and careful pointers on my interview style leave me feeling more confident and comfortable that the recruiter in me is gradually getting better.

The team here, are … well … phenomenal. Don, Catriona, Sarah and Kate bring a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm that make this a truly great place to work. Not to mention the mountains of cake, biscuits, muffins and crisps that magicks itself into the kitchen. Under-pinning the MC team, and keeping us all afloat, are the admin team who always help no matter what the issue. And the rest of the BLT divisions have been invaluable in training me in these first few weeks.

So, three weeks in, I’m at the beginning of what I’m sure will be an adventurous journey … I hope this will become another moment I come to remember very clearly.

Austerity measures; the right price?

“Value” stores, such as Poundland, Peacocks and Greggs, are enjoying growing market share as retail consumers respond to the harsh economic climate, says Clare Barratt in the FT

In view of this, and the points made by Lucy Kellaway in her recent column in the FT on CEO remuneration, should investors follow suit and increase their holdings in companies with “value” CEOs, and football clubs take the same view on player purchases?

Corporate Governance 1 : The Football Association 0

As a huge football fan and a recruiter of Chartered Secretaries and Corporate Governance professionals, I was excited and somewhat surprised to see my two worlds collide at the end of March when the FA’s General Secretary, Alex Horne, told MPs investigating decision-making processes at the FA that the decision to alter Fabio Capello’s contract on the eve of the World Cup was a corporate governance mistake.

The Football Association admitted the decision should have been taken by the whole Board, not just “four or five” executives.

David Bernstein now Chairman of the FA added: “It won’t happen again. It’s just proper organisation. Any contract of any size, any changes should go through the Remunerations Committee and then through the Board. I will ensure proper governance. We need to fully comply with our own procedures even when we’re under pressure.”

So it seems there is no escape from governance, even for one of the world’s most powerful institutions. Stories like this bring the biggest business issues to the masses in a topical and relevant way which can only be a good thing! Let’s hope that a greater understanding leads to greater support and recognition for those professionals whose job it is to ensure good governance on a day-to-day basis.

Can you think of any other institutions that have been challenged in this way?

Do you think it’s harder to achieve engagement in this environment?

Do you think there are any circumstances in which any such entities should be treated differently, and if so, why?

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