Unpaid work. The obvious stigma associated with it is…it is unpaid work that gives you no income. Bills need to be paid, babies need to be fed, vacations need to be taken; it’s old news. Underemployed is not a word people get too excited about. However, unpaid work can usually lead to opportunities previously unavailable. The downside of the underemployed position is obvious. That is why I won’t spend time talking about it, you can figure out how unpaid work would affect you for yourself. Instead, I will point out all of the reasons why being underemployed can help you out in the long run, specifically with networking.
Let’s imagine that you have been looking for a job for the past few months and are currently living off of your savings, or your parents. Regardless of whether you take up an unpaid job or not you will keep on looking for work, so why not do something productive while waiting for the real thing? The beautiful part of unpaid or underemployed work is that it is usually not a long gig, maybe lasting two or three months. This means that in the time you have been looking for a salaried job you could have also been networking in an unpaid position.
You may say ‘working’ can only be called so if it involves a monetary payout afterwards, but that’s untrue; not all payments are green and tangible. The reason you take up unpaid or underemployed work is to have the chance to network and find a more suitable position.
My friend took up a position to work on a campaign for her district’s congressman during election season this year. She only worked for a month, but once the election finished her manager came up to her and said that the next time she was running a campaign she would call my friend for a much more permanent position. It pays off to put in the effort even in unpaid work, if only to get the networking contacts. It also probably helped that their candidate beat the incumbent as well.
The point is, you should look for any sort of work if you have the time and resources to do so- especially if it pertains to your career. Networking is as much a currency as money is, proven by the millions of people who have ever gotten a job because ‘they knew a guy.’ If you are a law student, look to a local consulate or legal firm for work. If you are an engineer, grab an internship from the company working the local quarry. There are endless opportunities for those looking in the right places, and just because they don’t come with a paycheck doesn’t mean they are worthless. Even a single letter of recommendation can make the difference between another month grinding away on the job search and a month spent behind a desk at your new job, all made possible by networking.
What are your thoughts on taking up unpaid work? Have you before, and did it lead to a better position? Share with us in the comments section below!
IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by Alina Sofia