Having an internship on my CV was something that I thought was a necessity, so I was really excited when my application was accepted for a small start up design company last year (I won't be naming names for privacy reasons). I was going to learn so many new skills and have an amazing and professional body of work to show potential future clients.
Unfortunately, this was not the case, and after getting over half way through the three months and finally going to my tutors for advice, they were really shocked at the situation I had ended up in. I had signed over the copyright to all my work that I'd created for the company, and I wasn't allowed to share it on my social media - which is why you've never seen it. On top of that I wasn't being paid, aside from the promise of transport refunds which I never actually received. I was working almost entirely from home and receiving calls and text messages anywhere from 7am to 12pm. What had started as a really exciting opportunity had slowly turned into a huge source of stress for me, which was affecting my sleep and even my school work.
My tutors' and friends' reactions validated these feelings, and in the end I learned a lesson which was more valuable than anything I expected to get from the experience. I learned to understand and appreciate the value of my work, to notice when others don't, and I found the confidence to walk away when I no longer agreed with the way I was being treated. I don't want to say that all internships are bad, in fact I know lots of people for whom their internship was extremely valuable and a launch pad for their success, however there are definitely some boundaries that I strongly recommend you think about, if you're considering taking an internship or even if you're currently in the middle of one.
- Are you being fairly paid for your work?
- Do you get to keep copyrights to your artwork after the project is completed? (If not, then you should be paid for this right).
- Are you actually learning anything new? You should be able to justify your time spent at the company.
- Does your boss respect work/life boundaries?
As an aspiring illustrator, internships can be valuable, however they are not worth it if you have to sacrifice your health, money or wellbeing. And please - don't be afraid to say 'no' if you feel that you're being taken advantage of.