Thursday, 18 July 2013

Graduates should "work for nothing" chairman apologises after backlash

Dick Powell, chairman of design charity D&AD Powell and co-founder and CEO of leading industrial design studio Seymourpowell, has been criticised by various outlets after suggesting creatives should "work for nothing."

In a speech to graduates at the New Designers exhibition in London, Powell said:

"Your goal may be to get a job, but your first task is to crack open the door, and you should stop at nothing to achieve that. Be prepared to do anything, anything at all to get into a business. Offer anything, do anything, call in every contact you have, get on LinkedIn and let it take you everywhere, work for nothing, make tea, carry bags, and learn, learn, learn."

Speaking to Dezeen after his speech, Powell said that doing an unpaid internship is "the easiest way to get a job".

"You've got to invest [in yourself]," he said. "It depends on the industry. In advertising it's normal - you don't get paid. Other businesses will pay for lunch, travel, that kind of thing."

You can read the full transcript of his speech here.

His words go against the current trend that some graduates and entry-level candidates feel taken advantage of by employers when working unpaid internships. With such a backlash through social media on the subject, Powell released a statement to clarify his comments.

"I was shocked and rather saddened to read [Dezeen's] article yesterday headlined 'Graduates should "work for nothing" says D&AD Chairman' in relation to my recent speech at the opening of NewDesigners Part Two on 3 July. The article does not reflect my views, nor those of D&AD and I'd like to put the record straight, so I'm grateful for this opportunity to clarify a number of points which have understandably caused a great deal of concern and anger. 

"Sadly, these days, it is harder than ever for graduates to find work; the jobs don't come to them - many don't realise that their graduation is the start of a lengthy, often soul destroying process that is as much work as work itself...It was certainly not my to intention to infer working for free, more an attempt to impress upon them that they should stop at nothing to 'crack open the door' (buried among a longer list of wilder ideas to emphasise the message). 

"I should have made it clear that I was referring to student internships and NOT graduates. And to be quite clear on this, by interns I mean students still within education and not graduates. "The question of internships is, rightly, a matter of hot debate. To my mind, a student internship is part of a student's education and, just as important, it's one of the best ways to get yourself in front of the right people and crack open the door to a future job (several of Seymourpowell's younger designers first came to us as student interns). 

"Indeed, at Seymourpowell we pay all our student interns. But unconscionably, not every agency or design company concurs with this moral position. In my view, and in D&AD's view, there are no circumstances where working unpaid in any capacity is acceptable on any level! I apologise to readers who may wrongly have a different impression as a result of [Dezeen's] article."