Saturday, August 1, 2009

How Unpaid is Too Unpaid?

Being back at home and looking for work, many of the best opportunities for work offer experience rather than money as compensation for your efforts. I apply for anything I think I can get done, and getting paid is just an added bonus to being able to fill the months with some kind of employment. I dread being completely without work and having to explain in an interview exactly what I've been doing with my time. At this stage in my career, experience, references and contacts are just as valuable as cash. And at this stage in the world economy, more and more companies are offering what they can for the work they need to get done.

But though my living expenses are low living at home, they are not non-existent. The price of gas still being what it is, having to drive to a 9-5, 5 days a week internship would soon be more savings than I'm willing to sacrifice without the promise of a full-benefits position to come. A day or two a week for meetings and updates is fine, but in this day and age, do I really need another desk and computer to do what can just as easily be done at home on my own laptop and bright pink rolling desk? It makes sense to me that if I'm not getting paid, I shouldn't be paying more than necessary either to get the job done. And for businesses in small offices, or even in home offices, why try and find room for an intern when you can just e-mail assignments and problem-solve with conference calls. I have been fortunate enough to find part-time jobs which I can complete from home, filling my days with work without cramming my mornings and evenings with commutes.

Being able to work from home is a luxury. I wake up early, but not too early. I have the luxury of kitchen proximity, so my lunch break isn't limited to sandwiches and leftovers. Pajamas are my workwear staple. But it also helps me get more work done. Instead of just 9-5, I work while watching primetime and as I lounge at the weekend. Having my office always right in front of me, I see work as a good way to fill any empty moment.

So while my bank account doesn't know I'm working, there are advantages to certain unpaid internships. Which isn't to say I'm not still on the lookout for paid jobs, but learning how to mould my school skills and homework habits into the real world in the comfort of my own home is like wading in the kiddie pool. And all the while, I hope I'm impressing my employers with my dedication and detail-orientation, inspiring them to recommend me for that 401k-included position, or hire me themselves. It's hard to swallow in the beginning, but there really is more to job compensation than dollars and cents.

No comments:

Post a Comment