Dear Seasoned Workforce,
I am a final year student awaiting my graduation in three months. I have been trying to find a job within this period or at least an internship which is paid. This will really help my situation since I am not able to support myself financially without a salary. I have had no luck so far since every opportunity I find is unpaid. Please advise on how I can get a job soon or an internship.
I have received your question and decided to respond to it in this post. You will be surprised to learn that the issue you are facing is one of the most common challenges faced by students and young professional when transitioning into the job market. Unfortunately, we leave university or college with very high hopes and expectations of the job market which is never as excited to see us as we think and this can be quite frustrating.
The issue of paid vs unpaid engagements (internships/ jobs) is normally very double-sided. I would like to invite you to look at it not only from your employee perspective but also from the employer’s perspective. An employer’s aim is to keep operational costs and overheads as low as possible and so, they are naturally inclined to not want to part with large amounts of money (or any- depending on how generous they are) except in one instance. WHEN THEY SEE VALUE.
This is the same law that governs the behaviour of loyal Apple customers who stand in line for hours and then spend a whooping 900$ on a product when the competitors go for much less. It is simple, they see value. This product is reliable and is able to do things for them which other products cannot. You need to become the human resource equivalent of this iPhone to your employer if you want them to invest a proper salary in you.
However, it is not an instantaneous process. The truth is, an employer will never know how valuable or skilled you are unless you prove it (deliver results!). With this in mind, it would be wise of you to take those unpaid offers and use them as a chance for the employer to sample your value. Remember the two ways of adding value directly in an organization as discussed in our earlier post.
Remuneration should be one of the factors considered when weighing your options but not the main one. This is especially in the early stages of your career when your CV is light with little or no work experience and when all your references are academic. The level of learning, exposure and skills that could be gained from an opportunity should take greater precedence in your decision, making a trade-off between the skills gained and the time put in.
This is also where the freely receive freely give strategy from the brilliant book The $100 Startup comes in. You do not loose what you have by giving it away. If you are earning nothing from staying at home or from tarmacking (A Loose Loose Situation), then you need to realize that you will be earning nothing but gaining skills if you take up an unpaid internship (A Loose Win Situation). The latter is better than the former since you will still be moving forward.
In a financially strained situation, you may calculate with honesty and negotiate with your employer on a modest amount to cover food and transport costs. This will show that you are genuinely interested in the opportunity and are not only after the money. In that period,ensure you deliver 300% on your duties, adding great value to the team because your employer will have made an investment which they expect will pay off.