Hidden costs. They’re everywhere. They hide down the back of the radiator, breathe down your neck on the bus, swim in the foam of your cappuccino. They climb into your fridge at night and drink your Frosty Jacks. They’re sitting behind your computer screen right now.
You can do your best to roll up a well-made budget and swat them into oblivion, but some are just too nimble. And it would be fine; we could learn to live with the little bastards, if money were no object. Unfortunately for many of us it very definitely is an object, and one we have very little of as students.
So the task of actively seeking and shelling out for weeks upon weeks of unpaid work experience is hardly an ideal prospect. With maintenance loans barely covering accommodation, and food prices inexorably rising, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the money for travel and living expenses for internships – especially those based in the Cost Capital, London. Unless you have family and friends within commuting distance or a hefty wad burning a hole in your back pocket, the price gets pretty punitive.
But surely this is a warped view of the situation. If you are at university, you have already undertaken a massive financial investment – one of the biggest you will ever make – in yourself. You nine-granders will spend over £35,000 during your three-year degrees, and for what?
Some of that huge expense can be attributed to the experience, the environment, and the love of your course. But a large chunk is spent in the belief that you are buying not necessarily a taxi ride to the door of your dream job, but at least a decent bike with a comfy seat. It is of vital importance to view your degree as this investment, lest you lose sight of why you are throwing thousands of pounds at the university.
But looking at it from this angle should put your other expenses into perspective as well. Hundreds of pounds on internships with no guarantee of a job may seem like an unaffordable outlay from the depths of student debt, but viewed as an investment in your employability for that perfect post, it suddenly makes a lot of sense.
We’re constantly told that interning is fast becoming a gauntlet students are obliged to run, unless we fancy sharing a measly dole with those ravenous hidden costs. What’s more, for many industries the degree has become simply the enabler, and it is experience and contacts that will land you the job. In the world’s most expensive game of scrabble, you’ll score no points with an employer unless you have a few letters to your name, but the more time you’ve spent speaking their language, the less important it is just what those letters are.
So if you’re willing to spend such a fortune on your degree, an internship is more than worth the extra push – it’s necessary to justify doing the degree at all! If you think you can’t afford an internship, look again. Maybe you can. You might have to scrimp here, and save there, but in the grand scheme of things the right attitude and that couple of hundred pounds could buy you a lifetime career.
Of course it may be truly impossible to find all that money, or you can’t quite get there, but there is help at hand. The university offers students in their penultimate year of study a ‘Get Inspired’ needs-assessed bursary of up to £800 for internships – definitely worth applying for.
It is a travesty that provision for this necessary expense is not included in the maintenance loan, and that money borrowed to live must be diverted away. The problem stems from responsibility being put on the prospective employee, not the employer. Saintly firms have selflessly done the economy the service of creating jobs; the least we can do is work for free. Older generations complain that unpaid work experience was never even considered in their day – work was paid for, and businesses invested their wages to reap the returns of a skilled force. The balance has long since tipped to honour the job creators, the ostensive wealth creators, to whom we must now pander. But there’s no use crying over snatched milk. It’s clear that as a student you must tackle the jobs market as it is, not how it was, nor how you wish it to be. You’d best get on your bike.