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Unpaid Work Experience – Is It Worth It?

If you’re fresh out of education or want to break into a new sector, you might be considering unpaid work experience. Here’s our advice about the pros and cons.

If you’re fresh out of education or want to break into a new sector, you might be considering unpaid work experience. Here’s our advice about the pros and cons.

Develop your portfolio

Make an ongoing effort to broaden your portfolio and continue learning, it’s all evidence that you’re passionate about your career and the sector you’d like to work in. You can do this via work experience, but you can easily do it solo too.

People aspiring to be graphic designers could set themselves some briefs, showing how they would rebrand companies they are a fan of, or develop new concepts for existing brands. Content writers should keep writing. Start a blog and write articles on topics you’re interested in, offer to write guest posts for sites you admire, write opinion pieces, do some work for charities or voluntary groups. Keep a record of all your output, with engagement rates if you can.

Gain a competitive edge but don’t leave yourself completely out of pocket

Anyone recently qualified can show they have got plenty of work under their belt gaining their degree, but sadly that doesn’t mean they are guaranteed a job. There are lots of people out there with exactly the same qualifications as you and some with more, so you’re up against a lot of competition.

There’s no harm giving yourself a competitive edge by gaining work experience and demonstrating your work ethic. It’s a good opportunity for you to develop your skills, but it’s hard to argue the case for you doing it for nothing, particularly with the cost of living shooting sky high.

You don’t need to stay unemployed whilst chasing your dream job. The best of both worlds is to look for a paid role with flexible hours which allow you some time to work on your own projects. If you can’t spot that particular unicorn anywhere, we also know of several candidates who were working full time paid jobs and getting some unpaid work experience in their spare time. Yes it’s a stretch, but it could be worth the investment in your career.

Short term commitment

If you’re unsure whether a job or a sector is 100% for you, work experience can be a good opportunity for you to try it out without any long term ties, which can work for you and the employer. Timing wise, a few weeks should be enough but do make sure both sides are clear on what the agreement is, how long you’ll do unpaid work, what you’ll be doing and what both parties will gain from it.

Do I need really need to do unpaid work to secure a full-time job

Whilst an unpaid placement can have its worth and may help you secure a job in some scenarios, it’s really your grit, determination and resilience that will wow a potential employer. And while a placement might help, there are several ways you can impress them, without working for them for free.

Need help with your job search?

We’ve placed hundreds of entry level candidates into their dream job over the years. Our experienced team can help you clarify what you want, map it against the industry picture and what’s achievable, suggest roles that fit your criteria and help you make a plan.

We’re here to help you. Get in touch for a chat.


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