Don’t Work For Free

I read an article on page 6 of Sunday’s Parade Magazine entitled, “Should Unemployed People Work for Free?” My short answer is No!

Though the article does make some good points including: 1) 58% of the participants in the cited Georgia Works program were hired full time by the companies where they worked for free and 2) the state paid both their unemployment benefits and a weekly stipend for transportation, child care and other expenses. Furthermore, I realize that the recent national unemployment rate rose .1% to 9.8% and the Georgia state unemployment rate is even higher at 10.2%, but this sets some very bad employment precedents.

First, there is no guarantee that the candidates will land a full-time job. These companies could just use them for free labor. Second, the time spent working for free actually takes away from job finding efforts. Finally, companies continue to hire temporary workers. Therefore, workers can actually make money on a temporary job assignment, which can also lead to full-time employment! Especially since one of the major trends in employment is temp-to-perm conversions. This means an employer hiring someone on a temporary basis, trying them out for several months and then converting them into full-time employment once they have proven themselves.

Also, job seekers need to spend more time honing their interview skills. This is the case since research shows that the most important part of landing a job is selling yourself in the interview. Unfortunately, many candidates do a very poor job. Especially during these tough employment times, one needs to be very well prepared and stand out among the competition. Therefore, instead of providing free labor, one should find ways to better market themselves to employers.

Working for free does not prove anything. Instead it marginalizes your abilities. A better way to spend your time is networking. This means joining associations in your field and meeting key decision makers. If you want to volunteer your time, a more efficient way to do so is with associations in your field. Associations are primarily non-profit. As such they tend to lack the resources to actuate many projects. By volunteering, you may meet the heads of many companies that you wish to work for!