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June 16, 2009


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It is a great idea ...
-I think that even working for non-profits (volunteering) can help with the job hunt
--Someone see you willingness to work and recommends you at their place of business
-The skills you gain add to you resume
--Volunteering during unemployment is better than sitting around doing nothing
--It may even add up as brownie points, if organization is a well known charity
--HR employees love a good story that they can pass along to the hiring manager

A lot of young people do this at the start of their careers--unpaid internships. (Another one of the hidden costs of starting your career these days that the "let the young people pay for it all themselves, I put myself through med school washing dishes four hours a week!" people tend to overlook.)

I think it would be okay to do if you were very, very on guard against getting exploited. I suspect that far too many people would fall into the trap of letting the "employer" drag the period out or indulge in false hopes about the potential for actual employment at the end of the free period.

Yes!! Where do I sign up??

Absolutely. In fact, I've tried to volunteer at my employer of choice but they didn't know how to handle the request and essentially ignored it. (Silly of them, in my opinion.)

Is this a good idea? Well, it depends. If you're a college student/newly graduated college student, working as an unpaid intern is really, really smart.

If you're not in that category, however, most HR depts will balk at having you on-site in an unpaid capacity. The company could be in danger for being sued for exploitation, they will definitely get in trouble with their unionized or non-unionized workers, and you may get injured on the job without health insurance or workers' comp and sue them.

Plus, it's a bad idea! Aren't you worth more than that?

I'd also want to know has the company done this before and what was the result - person hired etc - and why are they proposing this sytem now - have they any money? Also how many unpaid staff are they taking on - am I competing with six other "interns"? FWIW, the company I work for won't hear of these types of deals and pays all of our interns/placement students.

Only if:
* I wasn't doing someone else out of a paid job
* It culminated in a body of work I could use as a portfolio piece for getting paid work elsewhere

I'm not really sure how this works... you work to prove your value, but you are giving your labour away, hence is your value not zero? why would someone pay you for something you give away freely? this applies to a lot of things actually.

This is definitely not a good idea, IMHO. Working for free lowers your value in the eyes of a potential employer to zero. You look desperate and therefore fundamentally unqualified or flawed in some way. Offer to work at a reduced rate for X weeks, but never for free. Besides, if the employer is not willing to check your references, verify your education and experience, and decide to hire you based solely on how your verified qualifications compare against those of other applicants, why would you want to work for such a company? An ethical, rational, logical employer will hire on this basis. An unethical employer who is willing to take advantage of free workers won't.

If there is a reasonable probation period like a couple of weeks to a month, maybe. Otherwise, you *will* get/feel exploited (intentional or unintentional), you *will* be too busy to continue looking for a paid job, and you *will* be taken for granted. This happens even in paid jobs where you are "promised" a raise which never seems to come. Working for free or low pay, you are doing injustice to yourself and your fellow workers.

I might do it it for a limited time if there was a good chance I'd get hired. But I'd be pretty cautious about it, theres a lot of room to be taken advantage of. I'd look at it more like an extended interview.

Sure- Especially if there was a chance that I might get the job. But it might also be a great opportunity to get new skills and might be a good resume builder.
I am doing volunteer work now in hopes of using it towards getting a job.
I think you bring up good points though as far as a limit on how long to keep doing it without being hired on for pay.

If I'm going to work without pay, it would only be for my own business. Many companies already exploit employees enough by reducing headcount and thereby increasing work for each person without increasing salaries. People who partake in these type of work for free events are just encouraging companies to use their employees this way even more.

Yep, I would. I am TERRIBLE at interviews! However, I have landed several "good jobs" through a temp service. Each time, we knew I was a good match on the first day and could have gotten hired then and there if it wasn't for the agency red-tape. I would rather work one day for free and get a "real job with benefits" than work for them at a reduced rate for 3-months.
However, I'm just a receptionist and am only "giving away" about $80 or so if I work a free day. If I made more than $10 an hour, I might do more considering. And I would pretty much want an answer by the end of the day.
I wonder how you would get started with this? In an introduction letter? "I am such a good match for your company that I will work an entire shift for free"??

My company didn't want to hire me, I told them I'd work for free for one week and at the end of the week they could either let me go or hire me.

Well I did my week, and 4 yrs later and I'm still with them and not mgr an entire region.

So does it pay off? Yes!!! It does. They didn't' want to hire me for many reasons. I told them I'd prove them wrong, just give me a chance they said they don't want to risk the investment I said fine I'll do it for free.

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