Advice From the Pros

When Working for Free Can Actually Pay Off

Sometimes, giving your unpaid labor can actually be worth it

Sure, you want to get paid what you’re worth. It definitely makes sense. We get it. But sometimes turning down an unpaid job can actually be more detrimental than you’d think.

So when do you sacrifice the paycheck for the gig? It’s all comes down to whether it builds your value and ups your exposure.

At least that’s Gary Vaynerchuk’s take on it. Vaynerchuk went from working for his father’s wine shop to launching to becoming a social media star to founding the social-focused agency VaynerMedia. His latest book (he’s already written four, including three New York Times bestsellers) is #AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness. In it, Vaynerchuk highlights real-world, up-to-date career advice, and touches on the sensitive subject of when to work for no pay.

One time to consider working gratis is when you’re unemployed and none of your job seeking efforts are immediately panning out. “If you can’t find a paying position, consider working pro bono and turning that into a great opportunity,” writes Vaynerchuk. He continues:

Don’t want to work for free? Well, it seems to me that if you’ve been struggling to get a job for three or four months, it’s a lot more productive than sitting around doing nothing. I mean, who’s paying you to do that? Take a pro bono half day in a place where you can pick up skills, network, learn your craft, and get an employer’s attention (or at least guilt her into recommending you to someone else). Unless you are literally sending out résumés and interviewing eighteen hours straight per day, you’ve got time to volunteer your professional talent somewhere. Find a place where you think you can make doors open, and put your skills into action.

It’s also a strategy that can pay off if you’re thinking of changing careers, or working for yourself:

The best way to become something is to do the work required to become something. Sell, sell, sell. Figure out what it takes to provide value. Learn how to communicate your value proposition. Engage with your customers. Find mentors. Go work for free and under people who can show you the ropes and serve as that point of contact when you need it. Learn the hustle and taste the game. Put yourself in the position to win.

To find your next job—with a paycheck—search the Mediabistro job board.

#ASKGARYVEE.  Copyright © 2016 by Gary Vaynerchuk.  Reprinted with permission from Harper Business, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

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