Why You Should Avoid A Resume And Work For Free

A university education doesn't mean what it used to mean, and recent graduates are finding today's job market particularly frustrating. As freelance marketer Charlie Hoehn points out, a resume and a job application may not always be the best way to go. Instead, he suggests working for free.

While not an option for everyone, as there are still relevant traditional routes to jobs in the medical profession, for example, the direct path (college + job interview = career) isn't necessarily the best way to go. As Charlie outlines in his TED talk, you can make more progress by just doing stuff. It's not about working an internship, but working for free for people you respect and who can provide you with work you want to do. Charlie's been able to work on some very high profile projects with very high profile people by offering his services free of charge. Now people come to him and offer him work. He threw out his resume and worked for free on projects he knew he'd enjoy.

What Charlie doesn't really discuss is how you afford to do this. His argument is that if you can't get a job you're not making money anyway, but if you're willing to settle for a lot less you can generally get a soul-crushing job just to pay the bills. He recommends against that, but sometimes you won't have a choice. Perhaps that's what is necessary to save enough money to pursue this approach, unless you already have the financial freedom to do it now. Whatever the case may be, if you hate the work that you do and want to do something better, it might be time to save up some money and spend your time doing what you love — free of charge.

TEDxCMU — Charlie Hoehn — The New Way to Work [YouTube]


    This works. I didn't do this exactly, but my very first job, I offered to work a week free as a trial. They hired me that Friday.

    I later found out, they were going to close the position due to pressure from higher up. My offer changed their minds.

    Try it, what can you lose?

    Employers do need to be aware of (a) ethics and (b) minimum wage legislation before they enter into this.

    Internships and Workexperience on interesting projects are a plausible substitute for entreuprenurial ventures.

    I would instead say that if you're currently unemployed and looking to find an income stream - find something you enjoy working on in the interim. Be that interning unpaid at an interesting project or volunteering for a cause you feel deeply about, or building your own small business project.

    Find something you can do without any additional expenditure and do that while you're looking for something that pays better. Having a portfolio of personal development projects helps a lot for a grad developer looking for their first gig. Having roles on your resume, even if they were as volunteer for the SPCA or whatever demonstrates that you have worked outside of education, and builds contacts. Interning for an interesting project opens contacts into interesting work and gives you demonstrated experience. Etc.

    In NSW, "Work experience for no pay is only legal if it is organised through a school, TAFE college, university or other registered training organisation as part of the curriculum or assessment."


      Interesting. Pretty sure a lot of organisations don't honour this.

        Easy way around it; Contribute to an Open Source project :)

        So it's illegal to volunteer for a company?

          It is illegal for them to accept :)
          There are exemptions for volunteering for a not-for-profit organisation (eg helping out at Vinnies).

          But large, reputable commercial organisations won't take on unpaid staff. That isn't to say that you cannot produce something (such as program code, training materials, cakes and sandwiches....) and give it away for free. But you pretty much have to be in control of the deliverable.

    This is illegal in Australia.

    It may well be illegal in Australia, but so is breaking the speed limit on the roads.
    I've resorted to this to break through the "experience required" postings on job adverts. Offer to do a week free to get the experience, and you'll pretty much be guaranteed attention for the position over every other applicant.

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