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View Poll Results: Would you work for free?
I have and will again! 18 62.07%
I have and won't, here's why: 1 3.45%
I'll consider it. 6 20.69%
Never. 4 13.79%
Voters: 29. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 12-08-2009, 03:38 PM   #1 (permalink)
Eat your vegetables
genuinegirly's Avatar
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Location: Arabidopsis-ville
Would You Work for Free?

How willing are you to work for free?
Have you?
Do your friends and family share your mentality?
How did you work your way into your dream job?

This seems to be a question that a lot of my friends are facing. As they're graduating from college, they're seeing the slow job market first-hand. Many of them are attempting to minimize expenses by moving in with family, or finding cheap rent in another state where their savings has the potential to last longer.

I've always assumed that one has to prove themselves in a field in order to make a name for themselves before they'll really find the job that they love. This can be accomplished through part-time volunteer work during off-hours from your un-loveable paying job, or by accepting a full-time unpaid internship. It seems like common sense to take whatever offers come your way to make a little headway into the field of your interest.

But yet I keep running into peers who don't share this mentality. They don't want to spend any time volunteering. They don't even think of offering to help out with something that they love. They stay at home day in and day out, filling out applications. But they make no attempt at networking. Many don't even know where to begin. What's worse, they seem to scoff at the very idea of showing ambition. It is almost as though they expect a perfect job to fall into their arms. I'm reminded of a child who wants so badly to play in a pool and have fun with his friends, but is too afraid to jump.
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Old 12-08-2009, 03:40 PM   #2 (permalink)
The sky calls to us ...
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An internship to break into a field is great, but I can't afford to lose what I do get paid. I work at a public university, so pay is on the very low side of average for anything you do except teach.
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Old 12-08-2009, 03:40 PM   #3 (permalink)
warrior bodhisattva
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I've worked as an intern for a few months. But it landed me a job.

There is a difference between working for free and working towards something and not getting paid for it in the meantime.

Working for free/volunteering/interning is a great way to get experience and to build a network.

Also, they say the thing you'd do even if you weren't paid to do it is what you should be doing for a living. I'm not sure what that is for me. I should find out.
Knowing that death is certain and that the time of death is uncertain, what's the most important thing?
—Bhikkhuni Pema Chödrön

Humankind cannot bear very much reality.
—From "Burnt Norton," Four Quartets (1936), T. S. Eliot

Last edited by Baraka_Guru; 12-08-2009 at 03:44 PM..
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Old 12-08-2009, 03:48 PM   #4 (permalink)
Getting it.
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I've worked for free in the past, it's a great way to gain experience and to get a foot in the door. That said, I am at a stage in my life and career where I need to get paid. This not only because I am now at a level of experience that is in demand but also because I have a family to support and a retirement that isn't getting any further away.
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Old 12-08-2009, 03:53 PM   #5 (permalink)
I have eaten the slaw
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I am currently working for free to help me get in to graduate school. It sucks that it's necessary, but it beats working jobs I hate for the rest of my life.
And you believe Bush and the liberals and divorced parents and gays and blacks and the Christian right and fossil fuels and Xbox are all to blame, meanwhile you yourselves create an ad where your kid hits you in the head with a baseball and you don't understand the message that the problem is you.
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Old 12-08-2009, 03:57 PM   #6 (permalink)
Young Crumudgeon
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Location: Canada
I did a substantial amount of volunteer work in my youth. I'm considering it as an option now that it's looking like I may not be taking a job in the near future.

One of my volunteering positions as a lad lead to work at a youth centre, which in turn lead to my job as a climbing instructor. It was honestly the best job I've ever had in terms of fun/satisfaction. Granted it has little to do with what I'm doing today, but at the same time I'm not opposed to going that route to get back into the job market when the time comes.

Volunteering can be viewed as serving two functions. On the one hand, it's a donation; instead of donating money, you're donating your time. This may be of equal or greater value to the receiving organization. Quite apart from that, volunteer work and internships are the number one way to network with people in a specific field. It allows you to get to know folks in a professional environment and put your name out.

To be perfectly blunt, your friends are fools. Perhaps once you've landed the job you want they'll see the value; on the other hand, a sense of entitlement is a hard thing to shake.
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I get through cryin' and I'm sadder than before I wept
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Old 12-08-2009, 04:01 PM   #7 (permalink)
... a sort of licensed troubleshooter.
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Have and will again. Money's nice, but it's no substitute for honest, selfless contribution.
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Old 12-08-2009, 04:06 PM   #8 (permalink)
Minion of Joss
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Location: The Windy City
I have gotten a number of good jobs, and gained a lot of quality experience, by volunteering at interesting places when otherwise unable to find a decent job. Volunteering isn't "working for free" it's an unpaid investment into your future. If you're a volunteer, people will train you to do stuff, give you practice on any number of skill sets, offer you coaching and advice-- all stuff that you would otherwise be paying hundreds of dollars to learn.

My whole life I have done this. I learned all my basic office skills by volunteering; I learned PR, services sales, events planning, event coordination, desktop publishing, basic clearance and copyright law, basic grantwriting, and fundamentals of internet sales-- all through volunteering different places when I was between jobs. Volunteering got me invaluable advice, great letters of recommendation, and valuable introductions to important people.

Because of the volunteering I've done, and what skills and experience it's gained me, I have been able to secure a higher salary with each and every new job I've gotten.

Especially in down market times, it's infinitely more likely to be helpful to volunteer than to just sit around the house mailing resumes to places you don't want to work at.
Dull sublunary lovers love,
Whose soul is sense, cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
That thing which elemented it.

(From "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" by John Donne)
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Old 12-08-2009, 04:20 PM   #9 (permalink)
Paladin of the Palate
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Location: Redneckville, NC
Free computer work for friends? No, I demand Liquor/Beer/Viewing of your boobies! A man has to have standards.


I have thought about this as I am stuck in a rut as it comes to my industry I currently in. I don't mind doing an internship (I did one in college and an apprenticeship in HS), but I have the problem with it in this aspect. If I took an unpaid internship, I wouldn't be able to live in the cities that have these kinds of career making positions. The only way I could do that is to work a 2nd shift job right after the unpaid intership (A few of the ones I looked at required I be on call on weekends and nights) or take out a loan to pay cost of living for that time. Living in my car for 3 months while I work for free is not my idea of decent standard of living.

If I was in college and could tack on a student loan to my already huge loan bill and do it? In a heart beat. Now? No, I can't live like a bum just to make some contacts.


Are we talking about volunteering at soup kitchens and habitat for humanity? That I would do to help out my community, after I got home from my paying job.
Originally Posted by Baraka_Guru View Post
In my own personal experience---this is just anecdotal, mind you---I have found that there is always room to be found between boobs.
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Old 12-08-2009, 04:21 PM   #10 (permalink)
Too Awesome for Aardvarks
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Location: Angloland
I work for free (in a job i love) thanks to budget fuck ups, but i think i'll have to change after christmas and do something that pays me for my time.
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Old 12-08-2009, 05:01 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Location: Manhattan, NY
Back in the 80s when everyone else was trying to scoop ice cream and sell pizza in the mall, I took a volunteer job at the American Cancer Society local office. I did that for close to 2 years after school for 3 hours every day. It helped me land a job at a Fotomat as a field manager responsible for 3 other booths.

At the time I could afford to do such things because I was making or had extra money doing other things like a paper route, my own computer company, and computer work for other people.

I would do it again since I know that the more you network the better your job opportunities you can make for yourself.
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Old 12-08-2009, 06:02 PM   #12 (permalink)
My face needs food stuffed into it on a semi-regular basis. I have bills to pay. I have better things to do with my time than expend energy which could be used in;
1: Finding a paying job, or
2: WORKING a paying job,
... to work for free. My time is valuable, and (were I unemployed, as I have been in the past) my primary concern would be making sure the rent/bills got paid and my belly got fed. Until then, my working time directly translates into keeping my happy ass alive, and I'll be damned if I'm going to waste that time in work that does me no good. Networking has its' benefits, but those benefits are meaningless when they're (maybe) months down the road and I need to pay the electric bill the day after tomorrow. Volunteer work is a luxury consumed by those who don't have to worry about money.

Edited to add: Volunteer work being a luxury in many senses does not mean that it is a bad thing; far from it. Charity is a good thing. However, there are many people in this world who's situation does not permit such things, a fact which seems sometimes to get lost in the TFP echo chamber: bear in mind that I immensely value the quality and quantity of well-educated people here. But unfortunately in such an environment it can be easy to forget at times that for a lot of people, life is WORK; whatever work they need or can get.

Last edited by The_Dunedan; 12-09-2009 at 06:37 AM..
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Old 12-09-2009, 06:49 AM   #13 (permalink)
Riding the Ocean Spray
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Location: S.E. PA in U Sofa
I'm more at the tail end of this question rather than the beginning like most of you. In the near future as I wind down from my daily work of the last 37 years, I guess that's "retirement", I plan to do plenty of volunteer work to help various good causes.

I never had to work for free in my engineering profession, though I think in other fields working your way into a great opportunity may require different methods. After graduating from college (engineering, BSME) I got my first junior engineer job for what was an average starting salary for that position at the time, in what was a pretty tight job market for engineers in 1972. The job didn't seem like it was exactly what I wanted, as if I even knew that back then. But it worked out since that small company turned out to be a great place to get experience, prove myself, and move ahead. I'm basically still in that same field...though by now I'm one of the most experienced/knowledgeable engineers in this niche. So I'm pretty much in charge of the whole ball game now and my main concern is making sure the younger guys here will be able to step up, take the ball, and run with it as I wind down the daily grind. It's been rewarding in ways I could never have predicted or planned. I think the next twenty years will be too, but in different ways and I'll be able to do some helpful work for free this time.
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Old 12-09-2009, 07:09 AM   #14 (permalink)
We work alone
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Location: Cake Town
No, I would not work for free unless I had massive reserves of money piling up already. That, and money is a motivator for me.
Maturity is knowing you were an idiot in the past. Wisdom is knowing that you'll be an idiot in the future. Common sense is knowing that you should try not to be an idiot now. - J. Jacques
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Old 12-09-2009, 07:42 AM   #15 (permalink)
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2 words: fuck. no.
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Old 12-09-2009, 07:57 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Location: Pennsylvania, USA
I'd consider it but it depends on the circumstances--with where I'm at now, no, I couldn't work for free or I'd lose my home. I did do a lot of volunteer / free work earlier on and I can't say that any of the people I met really were beneficial in a future networking way, however, I wouldn't mind helping out.
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Old 12-09-2009, 08:30 AM   #17 (permalink)
Kick Ass Kunoichi
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Location: Oregon
I work for free all the time. My actual work has led to a variety of volunteer opportunities in my field, which I take. Sometimes volunteering leads to some nice perks, like free food, free soda, and t-shirts. I like collecting t-shirts from volunteer projects.
If I am not better, at least I am different. --Jean-Jacques Rousseau
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Old 12-09-2009, 08:56 AM   #18 (permalink)
I Confess a Shiver
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Semantics, but I don't consider it work if I'm not getting paid for it. It might be volunteer work or something to improve my resume, but it isn't work.

Internships are good for some people and a waste of time for others. Internships work great in the Not What You Know / Who You Know world.
Whatever you can carry.

"You should not drink... and bake."
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Old 12-09-2009, 09:17 AM   #19 (permalink)
Life's short, gotta hurry...
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Location: land of pit vipers
I do volunteer work now, and I get a great deal of satisfaction from the results. However, the people I deal with are incredibly disorganized which causes unneccessary stress at times.
Quiet, mild-mannered souls might just turn out to be roaring lions of two-fisted cool.
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Old 12-09-2009, 11:29 AM   #20 (permalink)
I would love to work for free in the form of an internship, but I was never able to land one in college, and now I have been out of college too long to be considered for one.
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Old 12-09-2009, 06:22 PM   #21 (permalink)
immoral minority
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Location: Back in Ohio
If I didn't have to worry about mortgage payments and food. There are some causes that I would work for free for, but there needs to be better organization of the public masses that would help at most non-profits as to how I can help (without sending in money).
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Old 12-09-2009, 07:59 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Location: Tennessee
It depends really on what kind of work. I've done loads of volunteer work in the past and never expected anything in return, I've also worked for free in my chosen field but always with an expectation that it would lead to getting my foot in the door (aside from the occasional favor). I would advise any young college grad thats struggling to find work in their field to jump on any opportunity presented for pay or otherwise. A little free labor now might just mean a secure future tomorrow.
“My god I must have missed it...its hell down here!”
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Old 12-11-2009, 06:44 PM   #23 (permalink)
Boy am I horny today
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Location: T O L E D O, Toledo!!
I offered to work for a week for free to prove myself at this workplace. I got the job, but didn't last long. I would do it again...
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Old 12-11-2009, 07:49 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Location: In the land of ice and snow.
I put effort into many things without monetary compensation, things other people get paid to do. I don't get paid to drive, watch children, cook, handle my finances, etc. If I'm not getting paid, I don't consider it work.

As far as internships go, when it was internship time for me, I was thankful that I was in a field where internships paid well. Due to the not so unique financial needs associated with having a family, I wouldn't have interned for free then and there's no way in hell I'd work for free now unless I just happened to have a surfeit of time and money.
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free, work

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