49 Decide when to work for free

It is essential to determine under what conditions you will work for free before you are faced with the opportunity. Here are three questions to help you decide. Keep in mind how much you need to make. 

  1. Who are you going to be around? Will the position give you access to a whole new world of contacts or will you be spending your days with people you already know? Whether it’s representing the company at a trade show, helping coordinate an annual charity ball, or attending a conference, the ideal unpaid position should enable you to either get a broad survey of your industry’s social landscape, or build one or two solid friendships with people already firmly established in your field. The CLN Volunteer Job Board includes unpaid internships that may fulfill this criteria.
  2. Will you be able to teach yourself what you need to learn? Every job involves learning on the go. As a volunteer, you should know what you want to learn from this experience and drive your own education. Organizations like Volunteer Toronto or Charity Village can help you find a volunteer opportunity that’s a perfect fit.  
  3. Are you interested in research? If you're interested in research but don't have the skills and experience yet to get a paid position, try reaching out to a hospital or research centre. These organizations are often willing to take on volunteers from different backgrounds, so ask around.
  4. What is your exit plan? “I hope they hire me after my internship” doesn’t count as a career plan. Do you want to be introduced to a key player at a partner organization, or do you want to make contacts and find funding? If you know what you want at the outset of your unpaid position you can work towards it right away.

Visit Career Exploration & Education and meet with us for a 15-minute conversation to talk about your next step(s). Find our hours here.

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