Melanie Morris: Interns are great. In fact, I'm becoming one at the age of 45
Internships. Suddenly everyone is doing one, offering one, looking for one, or following through on election promises with 5,000 of them.
Yesterday, Joan Burton made something we're all too familiar with these days 'official'. She put the Government stamp on, basically, working for free. Something a lot of people have had to do in recent times to have a chance of a job, skill up or shift career in order to meet current market demands.
I remember internships when they were called 'work experience'. Back in the 1980s, when the nation was again broke, it was really the only way to get a foot in the door. You'd work for a few months for the price of your bus fare, and hope that by the end of it, you'd have either worn your prospective employer into a state of submission, or were too useful to let go.
Equally, it was the best way to 'suck and see' a job close up; to decide if you wanted to fight further, through lousy pay, long hours and little gratitude, in order to crawl up the career ladder. In London, I managed a few 'internships' with fashion PR companies before finding 'The One' of jobs.
There were the ones where my days were filled buying endless lunches for countless people.
There were the places where I sat there, 'observing'. And there were the places where nice people took time to explain things and give me 'real' jobs to do, like (gasp), calling couriers and sending a fax. Each was valuable and each opened my eyes -- to what I wanted and didn't want to do.
But, in all cases, I learned more on these internships than I could ever glean from college. I learned to think quickly and built up the necessary contacts to make things happen. And that's why, I think, Joan Burton's Job Bridge Internship Programme, offering 5,000 positions to unemployed people is a brilliant idea. A fast track to becoming useful rather than over-qualified to work in today's world.
Actually, it's such a good, constructive start to a solution, that I'm embarking on a little internship of my own. Yup, aged 45, and after nearly 20 years working in magazine publishing and editing, I've bagged myself a few days unpaid work in a graphic design and digital media company.
I'm going to learn about all the stuff that's happened since the first time I sat in front of an Apple Mac and watched a magazine come to life; things like blogging, online editing, social media skills, building a web page and goodness knows what else.
I'm really excited about it, and I'm keen to learn, not just because I'm genuinely interested, but because if I don't, I'm in danger of becoming a media dinosaur.
In times where we're all being asked to multi-task, and evolve at the same rate as the world is changing, there's no point (no matter how tempting), to sit in my seaside ivory tower and watch the waves come in, like King Canute's missus on a fancy designer chair.
I need to know what's relevant for now, how it works, and then how to introduce the best bits of what I've learned back into my day job.
I love the printed word, and the glorious platform for stunning photography that magazines allow.
But as things are evolving so quickly, it's essential to stay fresh, entertaining and ahead of the curve.
So, it's back to basics for me. A jump start for my brain, and a chance to learn from people at least a generation younger then me. Honestly, you couldn't buy the knowledge any better -- or more enjoyable -- way.
Melanie Morris is editor of Image magazine