Paid vs unpaid work experience

Should I do unpaid work experience?

Work experience can be paid or unpaid, depending on the length of time, the applicant’s age and the company in question. 

Short-term work experience is generally unpaid, especially when you are school-age. In the UK, internships are generally paid, but might be minimum wage and can sometimes be unpaid entirely. 

Is it worth doing unpaid work experience?

There are many variables to consider when offered unpaid work experience. Your age, the quality and reputation of the company offering you the experience, and whether it is in your field of interest all factor in. If unpaid work experience will put you in the thick of the action in your dream job or company, then it is definitely work considering. 

If not, then you might want to look elsewhere, or perhaps consider a shorter and less intensive online equivalent

You also need to be practical. Think about whether you can afford to work for free, how much of your time it will take up, and how you will subsidies the lack of income. 

Know your rights and find out what ‘unpaid’ means. It may be that you are not paid a salary, but you can claim expenses. 

If you are working in a creative industry, make sure you protect your work and ideas. Unscrupulous companies may take ownership of an intern’s work without fairly compensating them.

Most importantly do your due diligence and ask others for their opinion. If it sounds too good to be true, it might be a deception set up to take advantage of young people. However, if the terms of the unpaid experience seem fair, and you can make it work financially, then it can be a good way to get your foot in the door of a company or industry.