Work Experience – The Money Debate

Should people really do unpaid work experience?

Does this mean the company won’t value the work you do for them?

Will managers take advantage of having someone doing unpaid work experience with them, giving them all the jobs they don’t want to do?

Preparing to do unpaid work experience, the planning and research through to budgeting, does take time and a lot of consideration. Money being a huge factor – especially if you’re supporting yourself, like I am (AND living in London).

In September, after 5 months as a resourcer in PR recruitment I decided that the career really wasn’t for me. It was boring, and I found myself doing the same tedious jobs day in-day out. That wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I considered waiting until the new year to do internships/work experience, so that I could book holidays and use my time off, meaning I wouldn’t be out of a full time job. But that was going to take too long, and I realised that from the 20 days a year holiday we received (5 of which had to be used over Christmas), I would not be able to do enough work experience to actually get a new career off the ground.

I made my leap of faith at the end of September (Well, more of a pre-organised, budgeted and well planned jump). I saved all the money I could during September and researched where I could carry out work experience, from October, even if it was unpaid ( I put all my prejudices to the side and thought I would give it a go; in the worst case scenario I would have to do hospitality work until I could sort something else out) – I needed the experience! I e-mailed and spoke with a few PR agencies (being selective about where I wanted to gain experience), and also applied for part time jobs, in anything I could find (I hit oxford street for retail jobs, and also looked online for any waitressing jobs I could find).

I knew working 7 days a week would be hard! But, it’s actually quite fun. I have met a lot of people from my time in work experience placement at, so far, 3 different agencies, and also from having a part time job in a west-end retail chain. The money is tight, and yes I am on a tight budget, but I am hoping that it will all be worth it!

I have learnt so much over the last month and a half. Initially I was worried about going into another career, as I knew I had already tried one and found it not quite right for me, I didn’t want to jump straight into something else. Doing work experience has allowed me to explore my options, whilst not being tied to anything .

I used to be against unpaid work experience. I used to think what a lot of people think, “I’m not working for free”. But it really does give you lots of experience and opens many opportunities – And no you aren’t just making tea or stuffing letters into envelopes if you do work experience. Companies will get you to try everything, and they do really appreciate the work you do for them. I would recommend it to anyone -obviously you do need to plan it all out really well, especially if you’re supporting yourself like I am, but it can be done.

When you know what you want, put your mind to it and Go for it! Don’t let anything hold you back. Especially your prejudices about working unpaid. Doing unpaid work experience, doesn’t mean you’ll be working unpaid forever!

Good Luck to everyone doing/thinking about doing work experience! But also HAVE FUN!

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