Working For Free?!

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This article explores the issue of unpaid work and whether it is beneficial to your career. Whether you are a graduate leaving university, a postgraduate looking to enhance your skills, or someone looking for a career change or career enhancement, volunteering is worth considering. 

This article discussed volunteering. However, if you are interested in internships, have a look at this article:

Pros: why would I want to work for no pay?

There are many reasons for considering volunteering, other than the altruistic motive of wanting to do something positive for your community. In terms of career development, volunteering can be invaluable.

    General CV enhancement

If you have been in education for a number of years with no breaks between school and degrees, you may not have much work experience on your CV. In that case, volunteering experience can enhance an empty CV, showing employers that you do have experience beyond your paper qualifications.

    Particular skills

Volunteering experience can also be used in a more subtle way on a CV and in interviews to illustrate that you have particular skills. These might be practical ones such as the use of databases if you are involved in record keeping for a charity, for example, or languages, if you undertake volunteer work with a particular immigrant group.

Broader skills such as leadership, creativity and project management or the ability to work as part of a team, can also be demonstrated through your volunteering. Many volunteering jobs offer specific training for free as well, so this will also look good on your CV.

    To do something

In this difficult economic climate, you might find it difficult to get paid work or at least enough paid work to make up a full time job. Rather than have a gap in your CV, taking on unpaid work can give you a positive self-worth and enhance your skills for the future, as shown above. Doing voluntary work can also help to combat the isolation that researchers sometimes feel.

    To be flexible

Unlike paid work, you can be flexible with volunteering and fit it around your existing schedule. So if you are currently a postgraduate with only a few hours a week to spare, finding paid work to fill those hours might be a challenge, whereas many voluntary positions welcome a commitment as small as only one hour per week.

A good place to start if you are new to volunteering and based in England is the Volunteering England website:

Cons: the downside to volunteering.

Of course, working for no pay does not suit everyone. Working for nothing in a role where others are being paid and where there is no chance of a job or career boost is not a good idea. You might upset other workers if you offer to do a job similar to theirs for nothing! Many people simply need paid work in order to survive financially and do not have the option of taking unpaid positions.

However, if you are able to undertake unpaid work, the volunteering sector is increasingly expanding to include all types of charity and community roles so there are many different ways of taking part. 

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