A listing that reads “Apprenticeship Position” or “Unpaid Internship” can be eye-catching titles for young or inexperienced people who are eager to start their professional career.
Sometimes entry-level positions are limited; therefore, internships and training opportunities can be a great way to acquire skills and get your feet wet in an industry, which will then open a lot of doors.
Companies extend these positions when they cannot make the investment of an employee who won’t yet be able to hit the ground running, but they don’t want to close themselves off to future hires. Opening the door to interns on a test basis helps them determine who will be a good fit for their company and if their company can foster an environment that builds useful skills and capabilities.
When an intern or apprentice works without receiving a paycheck, they are instead being paid with experience and access to skill-building tools. When you complete an internship and can then include a list of professional skills on your resume, you have made yourself more valuable for future employment and you’ll deserve a higher salary as a result. In this sense, unpaid professional training is an investment in a better financial future.
Some companies are also eager to provide these opportunities as it contributes to more future job candidates and more talented hiring pools that will ultimately contribute to their long-term success. To a company, those skills justify the costs of a full-time salary with benefits.
The points above describe an ideal case that is mutually beneficial to all involved. Unfortunately, some companies will use the title of the intern to simply take advantage of someone eager to get their foot in the door.
They may be eager to take on an unpaid intern and have them perform tasks that should be earning them a paycheck. This extends their labor capabilities without requiring any additional investment.
At the end of the day, it’s the intern who is paying the price and receiving minimal benefit. Some companies may offer internships that seem like training or educational opportunities when in reality there’s no opening that awaits them. It’s then up to the intern to move on to another company that is actually able to employ them.
To ensure any unpaid training opportunities will eventually lead to a paid position, you have to be realistic and make sure no one is taking advantage of you. You should always be paying attention to how your unpaid time is amounting to other benefits.
Gaining exposure is a common method for luring in unpaid workers. This exposure can be very valuable, but only if you receive the credit that’s due. You also want to be sure that credit is relevant to your desired career path.
Here is a common scenario for people eager to start a career in web design. A representative of a company is seeking design submissions for a website that will sell anchor fasteners like stainless steel wedge anchors and other construction components. They cannot pay for the work, but they assure you that your name will be at the bottom of the site and you can use the company as a reference.
This sounds like a good opportunity to build your portfolio, which could help you gather potential paid work, but you need to confirm a few things to see if all the effort will be worth it, such as:
- How many people will visit the site?
- How many will read the bottom of the site to see your name?
- Will this company consider hiring you for your website designing skills in the future?
From there you can decide if your efforts are worth the results. Keep in mind that the time you spend on free work could also be invested in your search for paid work.
To ensure you get the greatest benefit for your hard work, carefully assess your skills and abilities. If you feel you need more experience to catch the attention of companies on your career path, then a skill-building opportunity can really pay off.
That’s not the same as working for free simply because someone out there wants to take advantage of your time and abilities. It’s true that you never know where and when your next big break maybe, but don’t sell yourself short in the process.