The experience of work

So on the show recently, we discussed business, and different aspects there in, and I wanted to look at unpaid work, and whether it is something you should seriously consider/does it actually help. We looked at volunteering on an earlier show, and I am no stranger to the concept of volunteering. I have done it in one form or another over most of my life.

But there is a difference between volunteering and interning – something which has been in the news for a while. In a job market where there are plenty of graduates and people with a lot more experience, it really does seem to be an employers market. But there is a difference between what is expected from a volunteer and an intern.

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Interning is more or less the same as the work experience weeks you will have done while at school and may have been part of your course at college or university. It is a chance for your to shadow people, to get an idea of what the job actually entails, experience the business environment. You gain valuable insight to the company, as well as training that can stand you in good stead for seeking a job. But internships should not be long term. They are an excellent way of getting your foot in the door, of giving the employer a chance to see if you would be a good fit for the company.

Now not to sound too negative, getting work experience is a great idea, it gives you a chance to learn new skills, a chance to network and figure out if the job is right for you. But you need to make sure that you are not being used. An internship should be a week, 2 at the most. It needs enough time for you and your potential employer to figure out if it is a good fit. However, having an internship does not imply there is a job at the end of tit, It is equally likely that the company has a busy time ahead and needs some extra hands.

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Remember you don’t have workers rights as an intern – this is why they are very short term arrangements. The moment there is a sign of a contract or agreement for full time hours and or responsibilities – you need to ensure that you are being paid, at the very least the minimum wage. No matter how much you want a job, don’t allow the employer to push you into a situation you can’t afford to be in.

But there is another angle you might want to think about – giving your time for free, because is something you love. It doesn’t need to be big, is a friend might be setting up a new business and you can help them with advice or an extra pair of hands. Or maybe you can help at an event, there are many different roles that need to be filled at fetes, runs, festivals. Could you run a stall, or a work shop, even be a steward? You can look at this as an opportunity to network, maybe get paid next time. If you don’t have strong enough skills or confidence to want to charge to your time, doing things for free can give you a boost and change to practise your skills.

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If you are starting, or running a small business, you will not have enough money to pay staff, don’t be afraid to ask your friends, put a shout out, discuss your business with people. You never know who might be able to give you a hand, often people will be able to give at least a little of their time for free. Just make sure you don’t push too hard or you might end up with people being resentful.But, and this will sound more like me, the self titled Social Media queen that I am (I love social media… its amazing!) – reach out. You never know what skills or connections people have. Often people forget as well and need a nudge.

What I would say, don’t jump into something feet first. You are going to need to have an income for at least the first 2 years, so take your time and gather skills and knowledge as well as the savings to help you on your way. If you are serious, make sure you are doing something you love, but not at the risk of ruining what you love. Don’t pick something you enjoy to unwind relax, or take a time out as a new career. Unless you have something else to do in the same situation, you will not only hating something you previously loved but potentially burnt out.

A signpost directing work life balance

Well to round up as I have covered a little ground here – if you are looking to change your career path, see if you can get a little work experience, shadowing. You can do this within the company you already work at. It is often encouraged and will help you make decisions about whether it is right for you. It will mean losing out on free time in the short term but will have long term benefits. Even if you realise it wasn’t for you, at least you know!

Next, offering your time for free – do you have a skill, a hobby, knowledge that you can pass on? There are so many places to do this, charities, local communities, schools, church groups often rely on the help of volunteers. It is important to make sure you are CRB/DRB checked if working with children. It is also worth making sure you know who is covering insurance, for example if you are going to help out at a local Family Fun Day by doing a workshop – are you already insured? Will the organisers cover you? Yes, it is boring but better safe than sorry! Even if you don’t feel you have a skill or knowledge to offer, ask around and see if there are any ways you can help out! It is a great way of getting to know new people, feel like you are part of the local community and do a little net working!

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Lastly starting a business – this is a biggie! It isn’t something i have every done, and therefore not the best person to ask. I have an earlier blog post covering help and advice from some very talented friends of mine. Remember, never be afraid to ask for help, you never know how might be able to help! Networking is fun, don’t overload people though. Make sure that you are making time for yourself and still have time outside your new business venture to unwind – starting your own business takes a lot of guts, it is ultimately rewarding though! Never be afraid to ask for help and advice though!

Have fun, remember, this is not the employers market, don’t let that attitude make you undervalue yourself! Don’t be afraid to try something new, it may not work out but equally you might find a new love! Have fun, enjoy yourself! 

Click Here to listen to the radio show on Mix Cloud 🙂

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