A frustrated intern reveals how some SA companies are exploiting young professionals

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By Nqobile Mkhabela

About two months ago a took a conscious decision to walk away from my internship programme.

The internship had come to an end (fixed term contract), but they had proposed to extend my contract. I was definitely grateful for the opportunity offered🙏, but also mindful that I needed to start gaining experience as an appointed graduate.

We shy away from talking about the numerous instances where graduates are exploited by having their contracts of employment extended for a possible five-year period as interns, (no company benefits, no record of permanent employment), yet they are competent and filling up positions for appointed individuals (less cost to company).

A month prior this I had attended an interview with a different company, where after introducing myself and explaining where I have been careerwise.

They excused me from continuing with the interview because I did not have the experience they were looking for, they did not even give me a chance to go ahead with the interview (politely though).

Can the world treat graduates with more compassion and empathy? – Mkhabela

I had been filling the very same position for a possible two years as an intern. I remember walking out of that boardroom with tears in my eyes, I ran to the bathroom, but found it occupied.

Thank God I had a car, because I instantly ran there. I’m not even sure what was happening because I’m usually a strong person, I don’t easily cry… but that moment for me was very very painful.

I had come to realise that this is the painful reality we are faced with as graduates out there. It had hit me that this is possibly the beginning of a new era in my life where I have to beg to be be approved.

And for the life of me, I chose not to beg to be interviewed in that moment. These tears were a realisation that no one would confidently give me a chance because I have no “real experience”…. Tough 😅

It was that day’s interview that led me to decide to leave my current occupation as an intern, even when the extension was presented to me.

It served no purpose to fill up space while gaining zero experience. In this tough economy, I chose to rather not have a salary.

Most of the advice I got were to sign the extension while I look for a job elsewhere… at this point my soul and spirit were exhausted because in my internship period , I had served diligently and the results of my hard work were showing.

Sadly, companies mostly want to drain the energy out of you at a lower cost, and you stand to lose not only money but time as well.

There are just some battles one shouldn’t fight. At this point I chose my mental peace, I chose to walk away, and I’m grateful I did🙏.

When are these industries going to stop exploiting young professionals? Getting a qualification on its own is a tough battle, we had a lot of sacrifices to make.

Can the world treat graduates with more compassion and empathy?

  • Mkhabela is a graduate of the University of Johannesburg (UJ).

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