Unpaid work experience has long been a source of controversy. Many feel that it is exploitative of students, graduates and young people beginning to make their way in the working world. On the other hand, it can sometimes be the only option for those with little or no experience, particularly in fields where jobs are in high demand. Here are some rules of thumb for how to find the answer for the question: is unpaid work experience worth it?
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When Unpaid Work Experience Should Be Avoided
One of the most important criteria to consider when considering an unpaid position is what the work experience will require of you. If the position is expecting you to work a full work week, either full or part-time, it is likely not worth it. Equally, if the position is demanding or has an overwhelming work load, it is not worth doing without compensation.
It is also worth considering the applications the position may have for your future career. If the position is only tangential to what you’re hoping to do in the future, it is probably not worth the effort. Likewise, if it’s in the field you want to get into, but it’s a different position to what you would hope for in the future with a different skillset, it may not be worth the trouble. You can use your interview as an opportunity to ask questions and see whether the role is suited for your needs.
When Unpaid Work Experience Is Helpful
In some cases, the answer to is unpaid work experience worth it may be yes. If the position offers a flexible schedule, or can fit in easily around your studies, it may be worth doing. You might also find opportunities that are for a single project or a fixed amount of time. This level of commitment means you know exactly what you’re getting into. That way, even if the role is not ideal, you are only committing to a finite amount of time.
It’s a good idea to have your end goal in mind from the start. That may be a reference to put on your CV, or a project that you can point to in future interviews to demonstrate your skills. It might even be a mentorship where you can learn more about the industry. Have a good idea of how the work experience could lend itself to a future job that you want before you apply.
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