“This experience destroyed my life”: when the internship becomes hell

“This internship destroyed my life and my professional career. “ At the end of her six months in a Bordeaux chateau, Marwa, now 28, says she was “burned down” in 2020. Later, she points to sexist and racist remarks, as well as inappropriate homework (cleaning the wine barrels). with his level of study (bac + 7). Despite her resilience, she was unable to continue her studies in oenology and did not graduate. Since then, she tells herself “stuck”with the impression of not moving forward. “I have the feeling that time has stopped”tell us.

Beyond the suffering Marwa went through, the trainees no longer seem to bear being scapegoats or simply cheap labor. Because for many of these newcomers to the job market, relentlessness and suffering at work are no longer synonymous with success.

Fierce memes and reporting to the USSR

The buzz caused by the words of Claire DEspagne, founder and CEO of D + For Care, in the Freedom of Entrepreneurship podcast at the beginning of May testifies to this generalized frustration, even to this generational breakdown. The 30-year-old entrepreneur defends a world of work in which the trainee must give himself body and soul and happily overcome the 35 regular hours.

In front of the camera, he lets himself go: “There are schools that tell us: ‘If I find that my intern works more than 35 hours a week, I will stop the internship.’ It will be tough on your intern. “ On social media, the pill is difficult to swallow. Revolted, the new generation was quick to express their disagreement with ferocious memes and sour tweets … It even split a report to the USSR for “masked work”.

“Taking advantage of trainees”, nothing really new… However, it doesn’t work anymore. Why ? Stéphanie Devèze-Delaunay, legal expert in the field of internships at the Ministry of Higher Education replies: “Young people, trainees or employees, today are looking for meaning in their work. They no longer want to live to work, but to work to earn. Their life takes place near the office. “

Know what you don’t want

An explanation that supports a change in the “positioning” of this generation with respect to the elderly. The internship is now more experienced as a “means knowing what you don’t want to do” rather than the beginning of a true vocation. A sort of life-size test before the final choice of career (or not).

A bad internship does not necessarily destroy a (future) career, but it can damage career aspirations. A two-month intern at an e-commerce start-up, Paul says he did “70% of the time, uninteresting tasks” and having obtained “zero competence” from it. “I felt abandoned, especially in the last few days, because I just had to feed a database of photos… An ultra boring job. The boss barely calculated me. He has stolen my time “. testifies this student in communication and digital marketing.

The boss stole my time

According to him, failure is multifactorial. Recruited during the pandemic, teleworking made supervision and human contact difficult. Added to this are a lack of communication, moments of debriefing, trust and above all a lean and novice team, made up of only the two founders and their trainees. And for Paolo it is clear: ” Never again. “

Whether with Marwa or Paul, the question arises: why does it (always) fall on the trainees? “Because they have a ‘special status’, Camille and Agathe who manage the Instagram account of the Balance Ton phase respond in unison. We are plagued by all forms of discrimination and abuse. “ Although aggravated by the health crisis, the factors of this precariousness are structural: time in the reception facility is short (less than six months) and its corollary is turnover, low level of gratification, lack of experience, youth. .

“Change the law! “

But what to do when things go wrong? “Do like me, change the law!” “, replies with a smile Ophelie Latil, today director of the consulting firm Damoiseau and yesterday an intern in an embassy. After an experience that she describes as deplorable, she decides, with some friends, to fight to make the trainees’ voices heard.

It was 2005. The collective Génération précaire (of which Ophélie Latil is the spokesperson) published a book “Be an intern and shut up! To put an end to the exploitation of interns “ (Ed. The discovery). The struggle led the following year to the definition of a tripartite internship contract (school, host organization and trainee) and to the compulsory gratuity for an internship of over three months in the private sector. Minimum duration reduced to two months by the law on orientation and vocational training (2009).

This collective, entirely dedicated to the rights of interns, has gradually extended this legislation to the public service as well. The advances continue in 2011, where the maximum duration is limited to six months and the internship cannot correspond to a “real job”. To this is added a law relating to the supervision of internships (2014) which limits the use of this low-cost labor, introducing quotas (15% for a company with more than 20 employees and a maximum of 3 interns for the smallest).

Result, “France is today the most protective country in the world for trainees! “ emphasizes the jurist Stéphanie Devèze-Delaunay. And to take our Belgian neighbors, for example, where interns are not paid, even if the internship is part of their university career.

A press release in progress

However, despite the protection to which these young people in France are subject (as well as other employees), it was difficult for us to collect testimonies. “Even if it is complex, the liberation of the word is in progress”, Yet they assure Camille and Agathe, specializing in issues of sexism and harassment at work against trainees. And to underline at the same time, again, the brakes, also the “taboo” on these issues: the fear of being “burned”, the relationship of dependence and / or domination to validate one’s internship, the desire to have a “good CV” or shine with his school and university.

“Let’s feel guilty, then advises Ophélie Latil. Sometimes things go wrong, and that’s normal. The course is also done for breaking teeth! “ This professional readily admits it: as a trainee, she was wrong. But these procrastinations have led him today to a position that suits him much better. His mantra? “Don’t lose faith in yourself. “

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