Is it Smart to Work for No Money?
Working for no money is a very common thing. It might seem strange that people would work without being paid. However, people do it every day when they cook meals for their families, clean their houses, or help their friends with construction projects or other jobs. When people talk about working for free, however, they usually mean something a bit different from the small, ordinary jobs like these. Usually, working for no money falls into one of two categories: volunteering or unpaid internships. They can both be good if treated with care.
The most common form of unpaid work is volunteering. In 2010, over thirteen million people in Canada volunteered at least a small amount of time in many different places, such as hospitals, libraries, schools, and special events like festivals. Some people volunteered for only an hour or two, while other people spent hundreds or even thousands of hours helping others. They fed the hungry, planted trees, counted migrating birds, helped build houses for the poor, and did many other things in their own communities, in another part of Canada, or even in different countries.
People volunteer for many different reasons. Sometimes they volunteer to meet people with similar interests and to work with organizations where they are already receiving some benefit, such as when mothers volunteer as helpers in their own children’s classrooms. Others volunteer as a way of learning skills like teamwork and communication or to meet people who work in their chosen careers.
In some fields, unpaid internships are another form of working for no money. While volunteers usually work no more than a few hours per week, interns work full-time at a job with the expectation that they are learning something about a career. The idea of internships started in medicine, where people who had graduated from their basic studies would spend time working in hospitals and learning to apply what they had learned. These days, almost anyone can work as an intern.
Internships like these can be good, but they can frequently lead to problems. One of the keys of an internship is that the interns are supposed to learn from the experience. If employers make the interns do the work of a paid employee or fail to teach them any new skills, they have broken the rules. Some of the internships currently being done in Canada are illegal because of these kinds of problems.
So should you work for no money if the benefits are so uncertain? It really depends on the situation. Volunteering is usually a good idea since it shows that you are trying to be a responsible citizen who cares about the community. Unpaid internships are more problematic, but they can still be good. With the proper guidelines and supervision, they can help launch you into your chosen career. When everything comes together, the benefits of working for no money can last a lifetime.