Internal Revenue

A 21-year-old intern at the Bank of America’s London office died 15 August, after reportedly having worked until 6 a.m. for three days in a row. In the two weeks before his death, the German, described by a fellow intern as “a superstar”, had pulled eight all-nighters at the office.

His death, while an individual tragedy, resonates especially with young Austrians and particularly those outside the corporate world. After all, we are the Generation Praktikum – the over-educated and under-paid young people who often do serial internships after graduation because of the – irrational? – wish to do something we love, and maybe, eventually get paid for it.

But how many extra miles are we expected to run before it turns into a gruesome marathon?

It’s a package of long working hours, poor or no pay, and a lifestyle quite different to what our parents – who got married, built a house and started a family – were able to afford at our age. A recent study showed that young people increasingly move back home after graduating: a €400 internship just won’t pay the rent.

It’s one of life’s greatest joys to be passionate about your work and to have a clear idea of what your career should look like. But what do you do with the bitter aftertaste, when another internship has ended without prompting a job offer?

There is no simple answer – if there were, the media would have to call us something else. At some point, however, we all have to move on, even if new and oh-so-promising internship offers keep coming in. After all, we do internships because we want them to spice up our CV. But what recruiter would be impressed by a 30-year-old intern with a double masters?

We have learned that our self-worth is not derived from our income. Sometimes, though, saying no is crucial, to remind ourselves of our actual value.

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