gra-dult-hood n.

1. A stage in life between graduation and adulthood.
2. Gradulthood often involves jobs that don't fulfil a graduate's expectations.
3. A term coined during the recession.

To work for free, or not to work for free?

Guest writer Georgia Braham (@geobraham-of Half-Full Glass fame) joins us again to weigh up the pros and cons of unpaid work experience:

'Had Hamlet been a Gradult, I believe he would have asked this question. Unpaid work experience is the great gamble of Gradulthood. Will giving up the opportunity to earn money in exchange for experiencing a specific industry and making contacts pay off in the long run? Certainly, work experience looks good on a CV and shows a keen interest in a particular field of employment. But in this tough economic climate, it certainly doesn’t guarantee a job and most young people can’t afford to work completely for free. So what are the stakes?

I have just begun a month of unpaid work experience at a television studio. This is a fantastic opportunity for me to experience the industry I would love to work in. I am very lucky to have been offered the placement and am genuinely excited for it to begin. However, for the next month I will be completely working for free. No wages... No expenses... Nada. As I realised how much my train ticket for the month would cost me (£200 - and then there’s lunch to consider), the severity of the great work experience gamble dawned on me. I feel as if I am seated in the main table at Caesar’s Palace, with the entire contents of my bank account in front of me (ok so this isn’t exactly an impressive sum, but a girl’s gotta eat... and shop). I’ve got Sky Masterson on one side of me, James Bond on the other and Hugh Hefner is winking confidently at me over a mountain of chips. He’s probably bluffing, but in the dog-eat-dog world of gradulthood, a bluff can win you the jackpot. There are stakes are sky high, but the game is just not what it used to be.

The dear old recession has made the formerly hand-holding world of work experience somewhat more problematic. Firstly, it is no longer as simple as sending in your CV and offering to work for free. There are now entire websites and agencies dedicated to finding unpaid work experience in your chosen area. The application for the particular placement I have just started took me longer than most job applications, with question after question about my passion and suitability. Secondly, the working world has cottoned on to how desperate us Gradults are for jobs and the fact we will work for free if there is the faintest glimmer of an enjoyable job in the distance. Essentially, there is a stream of free employees just waiting for a juicy job bait to be dangled in front of them. Every now and again, someone bites and finds themselves caught and resettled in a rather roomy and luxurious garden pond. But more often than not, one just floats around somewhere else for a while and then finds themselves flung back into the same old stream with nothing to show but a few bruises and a story to tell.

So far work experience is not sounding too rosy. But hope is not lost Gradults! So much emphasis is given to work experience and internships, there has got to be something positive, right? Well, right. One day into my placement, I have asked those around me how they got the job and a remarkable amount began with work experience. In addition, an article in this week’s Career Mail they told the feel-good tale of a fellow Gradult who is now doing the charity job of her dreams because she worked for free and proved her worth. Would you like another positive? Work experience gives us Gradults the opportunity to try out different jobs without the pressure of targets and the bind of contracts. Far better to try your hand at a few things and work out what you do (and more importantly, don’t) want to do, than take a job just for its salary (we meet again recruitment, my dear old friend). Essentially, work experience is a prolonged job interview, an endurance test that gives you the opportunity to prove your enthusiasm and dedication in a way that could not be shown in an interview. And I suppose that if you discover what you really want to do, working for free is a small price to pay for the job of your dreams.

Anyhow, back to my big gamble. Masterson is out (he’s succumbed to the old ‘bonuses’ lure of recruitment), but Hefner is still winking (although maybe it’s my low cut top) and Bond has just raised the stakes. I feel confident in my hand, but you never know who has a better one. Outside of this metaphor, I’ll be going in early, staying late and smiling for an entire month. Will my work experience gamble pay off? Stay tuned Gradults.'

1 comment:

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