Should We Work For Free?

“Does it pay? How much does the job pay?”

That’s the first thing my mum asks when I land a volunteer stint or get a job that pays. Coming from the average traditional-minded Chinese-Malaysian family, I’m expected to be a filial Asian kid, working for the money and supporting the folks in their old age.

The distance between dreams, so near yet so far. Buskers playing, working, for free | Weekly Photo Challenge: Between.

The distance between dreams, so near yet so far. Buskers playing, working, for free | Weekly Photo Challenge: Between.

Why we shouldn’t work for free, shouldn’t take up that internship or volunteer? When we say yes to working for free, we might be naïve. We might get taken advantage of, made to do “slave labour”.

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Career Consulting Firms: A Reason Why Asians Can’t Get Jobs

This is a true story that happened last week. I recounted the conversation as much as I could remember word for word. The name of the consultant has been changed.

I lean back in my chair, delighted at having just finished writing my latest blog post in my favourite corner of my room. I stare outside my bedroom window to my left. It is a sunny mid-autumn day in Melbourne, the sky a crystal clear blue and the leaves on the trees outside still bright green. A happy, uplifting sight.

Bzzz bzzz. My handphone rings, vibrates and jerks about on the table, the sharp ringtone shattering the tranquility of this relaxing afternoon at home.

I pick it up. “Hello?”

“Hi, is this Madel?” a male voice on the other end asks.

“Do you mean May-bel?” I pronounce slowly. People always fail to pronounce my name correctly.

“Yes, Mabel. Hi Mabel. This is Jason calling from XYZ Careers. Have you heard about us before?”

“No, I haven’t.”

Happy student/graduate. But most of the time job-seeking is a laborious, demoralising process. Photo: Mabel KwongHappy student/graduate. But most of the time job-seeking is a laborious, demoralising process. Photo: Mabel Kwong

“We are a consulting firm located on Collins Street in the CBD, near the Parliament Station end. We specialise in assisting graduates in gaining employment in Australia,” Jason explains. “Are you currently working?”

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Career Consulting Firms: Treating Asian Clients As Cash Cows?

This is a true story that happened a few weeks ago. At times, it really is worth wondering whether career consulting firms really do genuinely aim to help their clients who are seeking work to land a job or just swindle away their money. All names have been changed.

She steps into the lift at 11.50am on a cloudy January summer’s day. It whooshes upwards just seconds after she presses the button for the floor where the career consulting firm is located in the sky-high Melbourne CBD office building. Decked out in black pants and a spiffy blue jacket with her straight dark brown hair neatly flowing down her back, she looks just like – and is – any other ordinary short Asian girl in her late teens-early twenties.

Just a few days ago, she answered her ringing handphone to a chirpy career consultant called Mindy who probably wrangled her number from one of the career mailing lists she signed up for a year ago. Over the phone, Mindy offered to help her gain employment in the field of HR.

Some people employ the services career consulting firms in hope of securing a job. But there really is no guarantee they will land a job. Photo by Mabel Kwong.

The petite girl had no interest in buying the services of this firm. After all, she wasn’t sold by those a similar firm offered her face-to-face two years ago. But she is an open-minded person who likes to keep her options open.

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