Things to consider before embarking on unpaid work

A few things to consider before embarking on unpaid work. Unpaid internships are increasingly common in today's society. It’s easy to think that it’s not worth… so what key factors should you consider before starting unpaid work?


Time. Generally speaking - any work that’s longer than two weeks should be classed as an internship rather than work experience. And internships should be paid. This doesn’t mean it will be a significant amount of money, but they should, at minimum, cover your expenses.

Value. How much value will this opportunity add to your CV? If it’s something that will significantly boost your future worth than it may be worth taking the beat on the money front and sticking it out!

Learning. If you’re not learning on the job then it’s probably not worth you working there for free, as you’ll probably not be gaining or furthering necessary skills. Additionally, could you come out of this work with a killer reference that’s going to boost your employability tenfold? This is probably pretty unlikely if your duties involve making tea and checking the post.

Could you be paid elsewhere? If you could pretty much be doing the same thing, at another employer and you realistically think you could get that job - why settle for the unpaid one? Unless it’s an employer you’re desperate to work for; back yourself and have faith! You can do better, you don’t always need to settle for second best!

Is it costing you money? Can you afford it? This is a no-brainer. If, as well as not being paid, you’re might be going through your hard earned savings, the job may cause you more stress and financial worry that its worth. Obviously, if you think it’s really a life-changing opportunity, you can do it until it's unfeasible, but don’t make these compromises for an average opportunity.

Could you get a job out of it? Ok - so not being paid does kinda suck. But if there is genuinely the possibility of you getting paid work at the end of the tunnel, this could sway you towards accepting the opportunity. Be careful though, unpaid workers often function on a rotational level in companies, with no one getting hired.

Realistically you will, at some point in your life, do some unpaid work - just make sure that if you’re not getting money, you get some sort of value out of it.