Monday, August 6, 2012

Volunteer to Work

So, in your search to find a job, you're browsing through job ads. After ages of searching, you find an ad that you know you are totally cut out for. You believe in the company; you're qualified to do the work; you like the location. But there's one thing:

It's not actually a job ad. It's an internship ad. There's nothing in the job title or description that would lead you to believe that. It calls for experience; the job gives essential value to the company. There's a little blurb at the bottom that says it is an internship.

What is the purpose of misleading people this way? Why should someone with valuable skills and experience in the field do this work for free?

I have some experience with companies working on social media and communications, but I have achieved most of my success through my own personal social media efforts. With most businesses asking for years of experience for even junior level jobs, I can see why many people relatively new to a field, or with little work experience in general like me, resort to interning or volunteering. To the great advantage of companies.

There are other misleading features of job ads: "entry-level marketing" almost always means sales canvassing; a lot of relevant "entry-level" jobs actually require a good deal of experience in the field.

I have done a lot of networking in my search for full-time work and I have been very disappointed by how many companies have asked me to volunteer or intern to do the work I have offered them. I appreciate that companies have budget restrictions and that their staff would like to work with me and provide me with that experience, but I don't think they should assume that I may work for free. I even state explicitly (politely) in my initial contact that I am look for paid employment. Still, they express great interest in what I can offer them, get my hopes up, then they ask me to volunteer. Why can't people just be up front and say from the get go, "We'd love to have you on our team, but we don't have the budget."?

Sometimes the company staff person attempts to provide me with some sort of incentive: "Do this work for me and win a chance at a free gift!" (Yes, a chance. That's not degrading at all...) or "We're looking for someone in x position" that is minimum wage and I am overqualified for.

Networking is a strange beast. I feel I am really good at it. I know how to make use of my existing contacts and approach new ones by extending my hand or reaching out with an email. Then I explain why I'm interested in their companies and identify a need that I can provide. What I haven't yet mastered is the art of figuring out which companies could hire me and would.

I have learned to steer clear of companies that have a lot of people volunteering or interning to do very important work. Does anyone have other tips for me?

Is it weird that I'm ticked off about this? Is it weird that I feel used? I am so glad that I am confident in my skills, otherwise I would feel obligated to volunteer for the experience, contacts and resume juice. It's so easy to be insecure. When you constantly see the amazing, integral work of people who are interning or volunteering to do it, you may start to think: why would anyone hire me?

1 comment :

  1. I would continue to avoid companies using interns to meet most of their staffing needs, and avoid entry level sales jobs.
    Companies should disclose the fact the job is unpaid when jobs are advertised. And the work for a chance to win a gift does seem insulting, somehow askjng for you to work for free seems less insulting.
    Unfortunately, if the job market is tight, you may have to take an internship or a low paying job in order to get your foot in the door and gain more experience. It is unfair, but if most people in your field are willing to do it, there is a reason they are agreeing to it.