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”.

I interned as a radio journalist at one of Australia’s big radio stations as part of a university subject, which I had to pay a few thousand dollars to study. Made to put together two radio segments from scratch every day within seven hours and no excuses not to, I felt like I was made to work at the station like there was no tomorrow.

Working for free takes up time. When we work for free, chances are we’re wasting time. We could use the time “working” to do something that pretty much promises an end result. At uni, I volunteered to present Asian-pop radio programs at community station SYN 90.7FM, spending hours writing radio skits. Hours which my mum said could’ve been put to memorising one maths formula or earning a few dollars working at McDonalds. True.

Working for free might lead to false promises, lead us into thinking we know what we’re doing and what we want. Volunteering in radio was so much fun and while at uni I honestly thought I was going to have a career in radio. Me presenting Aussie commercial radio in my Singapore-Malaysian accent? I must be kidding myself back then.

But then there are good reasons to work for free and volunteer. There’s always so much we can learn and so many faces to meet. After a few years at SYN, I got the chance to be their (voluntary) Radio Programming Manager and it was so fun working with other volunteers who loved broadcasting, running the station. And so we never know what doors might open when we work for free.

Sometimes we work sans a paycheck because we want to. Maybe we want to make a difference. I volunteered with SYN for five years only because I get excited speaking into the microphone, and we need more Asian Australian presenters on radio. Sometimes working for free makes us happy.

Work comes in all forms. Work means giving up our time for someone else.Helping someone else. Waking up and making breakfast for everyone in the house. Driving our friend around. Washing our car. We don’t expect much, if anything at all, in return.

So we “work” for “free” more than we realise it, every day. Work, whether paid or unpaid, is what we do and how we do our work defines who we are.

I’m a writer, writing articles I rarely get paid for. When 5pm rolls around at my day-job and I’m about to go home and write, my colleagues love to say, “Now your real work starts!” One thing I like about my mundane office job is that it’s a slap in the face, reminding me every single day what I really love doing.

Working for free, or sitting at home writing my first book, is something I’ll be doing a lot of next year. When I stopped volunteering at SYN, my mum said, “Good. More time for study.” I do feel caught in between being the role-model Asian kid and going after my dreams. But listening to others all the time doesn’t necessarily make us happy. With savings in the bank to get by for a while, why not take a chance? So I’m going to work away at the book without regret, but the book isn’t for me: I write to share my thoughts on culture with you.

Working, for money or no money, is rewarding. It just depends on how we feel about it. And how we look at it.

The more we work selflessly, the better we’ll get to know ourselves and the better people we’ll be.

Have you worked for free, done an internship or volunteered?

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76 thoughts on “Should We Work For Free?

  1. I was thinking of doing some volunteer work at an animal shelter with cats. It would involve cleaning the cattery before having time to play with the cats (the highlight). When I discussed doing volunteer work with a friend, she said she wouldn’t do any unless it contributed to her career. I thought that was a very strange way of thinking about it, like it never crossed her mind to do it as a way to contribute to something else.

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    • That is a very interesting your friend said. Sounds like she knows what she wants for a career, props to her for wanting to go for it. But I do reckon volunteer work, volunteering for fun adds something different to our resumes. Shows that we’re flexible and can do anything. “…a way to contribute to something else.” You said that very well and sound like a very helpful person with good intentions. Contribute. That’s a very selfless word and thing to do.

      Go for it if you want to help out at an animal shelter. It sounds like fun, and I’m sure it will be fun learning how to scrub a clean home for the cats. Maybe they will love you more for it 🙂

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  2. There are so many benefits to working for free as a volunteer or as an intern though that I think they average out over an adult lifetime. Not only do you feel better and happier during your day you also have the opportunity to make valuable contacts in areas that you feel passionate about. Keep up the great writing, Mabel.

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    • As we get older, it seems that we have more responsibilities on our plate. Jobs, family, groceries…so it would seem natural to have less time to work for free as we grow older, as we will certainly need to spend a lot of time working to make a living. But they’re always the weekends. Here in Australia people seem to like volunteering to help out with soup vans. Doing something for free, volunteering, I think most of us do so because we just want to help. Thanks for the nice words, NW. I felt funny about this post. Don’t think it turned out the way I wanted, but I had a busy week juggling way too many things.

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  3. There’s a lot of controversy in America these days about the price of college and students being taken advantage of in internships. One of the issues is that it perpetuates the classes and income gaps, because only rich families can support their kids while they work for free to help their career.

    I’ve heard it said that the job you are truly meant to do is the one you would do for free anyway… but that’s different from a career right? Writing, and the arts and hobbies, should be something we are willing to master by working hard for no pay for years. But we do that for ourselves. If we do that for someone else, there is an element of exploitation.

    To answer your question, I’ve never interned before. I went into my brief journalism career with hitting the ground running, though I started out part-time and didn’t get paid much but paid reasonably. Perhaps if I got a corporate job out of college and lived that whole life, then I would be more stable at this age. No regrets.

    I certainly write and draw for free, for myself, with the hopes that one day I will be paid (more) for it. That however does not mean I accept being exploited by number-crunching corporations who want my labor and don’t want to fairly reimburse.

    That’s the question, isn’t it: Do you feel you’re exploited by interning and such, or it’s worth it to fulfill your dream?

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    • I really like your comment, Ray. I guess if we’re really bent on going after that dream career-path, we’ll take any related (unpaid) internship that comes our way to boost our chances in this industry. But then again, there’s no guarantee it will lead you to your dreams. With my internship at the big radio station, I got it by chance through university. I didn’t feel horribly exploited while I was there but very, very lucky I did it – the experience made me realise I didn’t love hard news enough to be a reporting journalist. If not for the internship, I would never have pursued writing. There would be no blog.

      Job versus career. Definitely a distinction between the two. When we speak of career, we think of stable income and a stable life. Job? Hobbies we’re dedicated to? Sounds like we’re mucking around without much direction. I think all of us who are artistically creative do genuinely want to make a living out of what we do…but then the challenge would be to remain faithful to our craft. Writing for ourselves as opposed to writing for someone else.

      Didn’t knew you drew. Seems like all of those I know who play video games can draw. I can’t draw to save my life. What an embarrassment 🙂

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      • We have the same problem in the UK; its impossible to get a job without an internship behind you. But after 3 years at university, who can afford to live away from home for another year without pay? Only kids who receive an allowance from their parents. People in England talk of their no longer being a class divide, but in my eyes there will always be a divide as long as there are not (realistic) equal opportunities for graduates

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        • That is interesting to hear about the UK and jobs. It’s difficult to juggle an (voluntary) internship while you’re doing university but on the plus side that can save you money and time if you’re keen on working soon. Internships are also very competitive, it’s not easy to get one. In some instances it’s like applying for a real job with resume and all – just that it’s not a paid one.

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  4. A lot of the things that we view as “work” are seen as “play” by little children. They love to imitate doing household chores or to imitate working a certain job. I think that we can learn from them that as long as something is fun or as long as we do something in a playful or creative manner, we don’t have to see it as work. I don’t see writing articles, making illustrations or taking pictures for my blog as work, not because I don’t get paid for it, but because I like doing these things so much that they don’t seem like work to me.

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    • That brings me to this thought: when we’re kids, we always want to grow up quick and get a job like mummy and daddy. Kids always think adult life is way more than than childhood…I was one of those kids. But you’re right. Kids have that playful trait in them and just want to make the most of life and have fun. Sometimes working in the corporate world with deadlines and pointless round-and-round-discussion meetings to attend, we tend to forget. It’s very nice that you see your blog as a source of fun, that you enjoy putting up posts and pictures. Loved how your blog has evolved recently, it’s always fun to visit. And not, that’s not miserable work to me 🙂

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  5. Whenever I do something I do it to my very best and give 100%. It doesn’t matter if I’m get payed or not as long as I like it and I have the freedom to do it how I want to do it. I’m not a volunteer worker and will probably never be. Working for an organization or charity is for me to be pressed into their schema. I’m an entrepreneur and don’t want to battle with their often chaotic organisation and often unqualified but payed staff. If they want me they pay me and will estimate the quality of my work. If its free, the work is rarely estimated and the feeling to be used is more hurtful as satisfying.

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    • I do think there are some non-profit organisations offering volunteer positions aren’t out there to exploit you, from personal experience. “charity…with their often chaotic organisation”. That’s a very interesting point you bring up there. When I see charity collecting or “sponsor a child” young person in the city, I wonder if their intentions to be charitable are real, wonder if the organisation their representing is real. Chances are they get paid a measely sum to raise funds on the street, almost to the point you’re working for free (I spoken to one of them, that’s what he told me). I suppose if you have valuable skills and can be an asset to reputable company, no reason why they shouldn’t pay you reasonably well to do a job.

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  6. In Finland is a big issue of company basically using up students with internships. For example there was one (very big Finnish) company offering multiple internship positions. However those students worked practically their ass of during the summer wheras the real staff was on holidays. Of course these positions were unpaid, some had to travel each day up to 80km to work, also unpaid. In the end the company even refused to give them any kind of recommendation letter -> time well wasted…

    Internship here means free labor for a company. I had the luck that I found a small company which at least provided all the equipment I needed to work from home and paid the few trip I had to do to downtown Helsinki.

    I would only do some volunteer work or similar in case I have my family financially secured, otherwise how on earth could I support us? Now I am just looking forward to my time in Germany and prepare which companies I should contact for work 🙂

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    • Didn’t know that Finland was big on offering internships, without much support. You would certainly expect to be reimbursed for travel if you had to ravel over 80km to work, it would take very long to get to work each day and back. I haven’t heard much about internships going on during the summer in Australia. It gets very slow here in the summer…like work suddenly disappears and reappears again come autumn. I remember hearing that legit internships in Australia must be tied to a university. So if you’re out of uni, chances are you’re unlikely to secure an internship and you’re better off volunteering.

      You’re right, Timo. Your family needs you and it must be hard to squeeze working for free or volunteering into your schedule. Maybe volunteer on the weekends for a few hours? But then again, that’s probably the time when you want to spend with your wife and Nathan. Good luck with looking for work. Sounds like you know what you’re doing, all the best 🙂

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  7. I’m about to kick off a month long prac placement in a primary school for my teaching degree. One of 3. Oh and look at that…Burke St mall? I’ve ventured up there many times 🙂

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    • That sounds so exciting, Holly. A semester of prac placement, I’m sure it will be a very unpredictable experience with young kids 😉 Good luck with it and hope to hear about it soon. Yes…that’s the Bourke Street Mall. You have very sharp eyes and a good memory. The Mall hasn’t changed much in recent years, except with the opening of Zara and H&M 🙂

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            • I like Target too. Actually bought a winter jacket there recently. I also like browsing through op shops now and then, but of the staff I’ve encountered there seemed cold and rude. Don’t know if they get paid that much, or paid much at all since op shops tend to be on the charitable side.

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  8. I’ve volunteered in a cat and dog shelter. Volunteering for free is one thing, you do it for the love of whatever it is you are volunteering for. With regards to working for free, thats a different story. Sure we learn plenty of new things, but I also think that over the last few years with the economic downturn in the world (that Australia has not suffered as much as in other countries) companies have taken too much advantages on getting people to work for free or for next to nothing. The excuse is that you will learn a lot so you should be happy. This does not only happen now with people that need work experience, are still doing studies or just finished studies. This is happening with people of all ages. Being in Spain, yes I have had the experience of working for next to nothing. No I did not learn more – because I had more experience than them (highly ironic, but thats how Spain works at the moment). And the worst thing is that because you are working for next to nothing, they think you are of “no value” and don’t take you seriously when you need to point out something, or want to suggest improvements or whatever…. Gosh, I have had a ramble here…

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    • That never crossed my mind, the economic downturn in recent times and companies wanting to mooch off young people eager to work. But it makes a lot of sense. Lol, it sounds like you decided to work for almost nothing just to keep occupied and show that you can hold a “job” to move forwards…and funny they point out you’re just stuck where you are. Maybe it’s a matter of luck and chance you get employed in a reasonably paying job in Spain. In Australia, interning and volunteering is highly valued by many employers. The more of these things you have on your resume, the more you’ll stand out. It’s hard to find a volunteer job that you’ll stick with for a long time. Because you don’ get paid, many like to flit around non-paying jobs. I think I’m the one rambling now, hehe.

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  9. I’ve done quite a bit of volunteer work and enjoyed it. But I still need to work for a living, so I have to balance it with work, leisure time, etc. Not enough hours in the day! 😃

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    • Balance. Life is one big juggling act, isn’t it? I could use more hours in a day, maybe give me some of yours? 😉 Glad to hear you enjoyed volunteering. It’s very much a selfless act and you get to meet more people from different backgrounds than you thought. I met some lovely people with disability volunteering in the non-profit sector, and this taught me to be more patient.

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    • So true. We need to take care of ourselves first before we can help others. It does sound a bit selfish but it’s only then we can give a bit more of our time away for nothing in return, maybe only warm fuzzy feelings in return 🙂

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  10. My education is in art, but my “career” was in IT. I always thought of it as my day job — what I did to support the things I really wanted to work on. One thing I plan to do in retirement is volunteer at art museums, can’t wait!

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    • It’s good that you have a day job. That way you can support yourself financially and so you’re able to work on your art and other hobbies sometimes. It’s a balancing act and sometimes this isn’t easy. Volunteer art museums. That sounds interesting. You could end up helping out in a museum of paintings, sculptures, abstract art…sounds exciting already! I hope you get to do this in retirement, and it’s not too far off.

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  11. When i was at university, i did an internship with an art collective, work experience that was fun at the time and turned out to be vitally helpful when it came to getting a job. After starting full time work i simply didn’t have the time to volunteer, however now i’m in China i’m using my time to freelance for magazines just because i love it! Personally i work so that i have enough money to live happily and try to use the rest of my time as productively as possible – and productivity need not be linked with money.

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    • It sounds like you have a balanced life, juggling paid employment and other unpaid fun things that you truly love doing 🙂 I guess if we make time to do something we don’t get paid for but love, we will always have something to look forward to.

      Freelancing is a very flexible “job”. As a freelance writer, I get to pick my writing projects as they come along and create my own articles in my own time to pitch to publications – this which usually is done with the intention of not getting paid. The downside is that it’s hard getting your voice heard as a freelancer. There are thousands of other freelancers out there who pursue their craft for next to nothing in return too. But we all try our best and do it with a lot of love 🙂

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    • That is so true. What goes around, comes around. Working for free not only takes up our time, but our attention too, and sometimes people notice and appreciate our efforts. No wonder it’s a great feeling.

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  12. Thank you for sharing your thought for work for free, great topic. While reading your post, I thought about Steve Jobs (again 🙂 ) and Bill Gates. Steve didn’t thought about making money while inventing the computer, but wanted to change the world. Bill’s open source idea was mind boggling at that time, probably still is. I guess many who do had a dream and vision. Many blogger are sharing their stories and exquisite photos for free 🙂
    Good luck to your writing, Mabel!

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    • Thanks, Amy. Always love it when you drop by with wise words 🙂

      Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Two iconic people on this planet who are/were always very forward thinking, like they’re one step ahead of us in making the world a better place. Sometimes it’s hard to explain dreams and visions, because I think the bulk of that comes from feelings or what we feel. With writing, sometimes I keep changing a sentence because I want to express a certain emotion through it. As I write in my spare time, I have all the time in the world to do this. Don’t know how you do it with photography 🙂

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      • True. we may not have another Steve or Bill for some decades. But, as for doing free, these two always come to my mind. Photography can be time consuming, but it’s no comparison to the writing process. I do with my passion for traveling and enjoy learning about the history. I recall a blog friend of mine said that blogging is a full-time job for her, but no pay. 🙂
        I like how you express your thoughts through writing and look forward to reading more.

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        • Doing things for free or simply doing what you love for less to nothing is always underrated. It always comes across as a hobby, and we all have this perception that “work” means “no fun”.

          Photography is something I’m looking into, bought a new camera recently. It seems more relaxing than writing where there’s the challenge of making written stories sound coherent.

          Passion for travel. Most of the time we have to pay for our travels, rarely is it “free”. We have to work for it 🙂

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          • Congratulation to your new “toy”, have fun. I’d like to learn more about photo techniques, but have not had time… It’s discouraging to see how travel expenses is hiking up. I used to think (still do) that my job gave me the freedom to travel. 🙂
            Happy writing!

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            • Hehe, my new camera “toy” has yet to arrive. Hopefully soon. I always assumed you were great at photography because the photos on your blog look stunning. Definitely costs a bit to travel…one reason why should stick to paid. However, a paid job usually doesn’t have the flexibility that comes with a lot of unpaid and voluntary work. Haha, you don’t know how hard writing is for me. Thanks, Amy, as always 🙂

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  13. This was an interesting article to read, i like hearing different people’s takes on volunteering. I’ve volunteered since I was 14 (if not before) for church activities and organisations, but many church goers volunteer because they feel obliged to do so like it’s our duty and we feel guilty for saying no.. which is a whole different can of worms altogether!

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    • Volunteering for church for many IS another can of worms altogether 😀 I don’t go to church but I respect those who do on a regular basis. What a commitment to their faith and you’ll see many of them raise funds by having bake or garage sales without much thought. Such kindness. Then there are those who volunteer their time to walk the streets to try convince passerbys to join their church and bible study groups…sometimes they won’t leave you alone. I’m sure they have the best of intentions, giving up their time like that they must truly believe in what their faith.

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      • Definitely, though I’m not a fan of people – like evangelical I guess – who badger people, of any religion! But there are people named the city angels (or something like that) who walk the streets at night time to pick drunk partyers up of the street, give them a hug, give them coffee and make sure they get home okay. That is amazing 🙂

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        • City angels, those who go out and help those who need it. I wonder if they every get tips. Very rarely do you see them in Melbourne. Sounds like they put their lives at risk when trying to help possibly violent drunk people, who might be under the influence of other substances too. Sometimes you wonder where on earth kindness comes from – it’s always from the heart 🙂

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  14. Volunteering is a big part of Australian life and organisations even celebrate it with awards. The Sydney Olympics only ran as well as it did because of volunteers, their enthusiam and dedication. But they got so much in return, and that is why people volunteer.

    When I work I put all my effort into it. To do otherwise is unacceptable (to me). So either I’m working extra for free, or overall for a lower hourly rate. 🙂

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    • So true. I guess a lot of Australians have compassion in their hearts. Australia does have a sizable non-profit sector too, which probably drives more of us to volunteer our time for no pay. I vaguely remember reading somewhere volunteers ran the Sydney Olympics show…but not too sure if this was the case with the Commonwealth Games. For big events like these, I’d work for free and volunteer because you get to meet people all over the world and it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity.

      You’re a hardworker I see, Dragon. I’m not surprised. Maybe that’s why you have photos to show us all the time.

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  15. Mabel I am in the wonderful position, call it being much older, that I work part time and do a lot of volunteer work. Each Monday my husband and I volunteer our time at our city’s Food Bank. I also volunteer at an organization helping women and children escape sexual exploitation. I am a very big proponent of volunteerism and social justice. On the other hand one has to put groceries on the table so it is finding the balance in life.

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    • Sue, I am so jealous of you! But I supposed you have worked hard in your earlier years and now you can afford to set aside time to give back, for free.

      Volunteering, you get to meet all kinds of people. Quite a lot of the time they are vulnerable and scared…you really just want to help and spend time for them for nothing in return. Sounds like you are a regular smiley and friendly face in your volunteer circles, I think I’m right.

      It would be great if we could do this all day but as you said, we need to find that balance in life. Something’s got to give.

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      • Mabel although I have always done some volunteer work but I am able to do more now that’s for sure. One does meet many wonderful people. Being able to brighten someone else’s day with kindness and a smile is good for the soul. Helps to keep our own problems in perspective I find.

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        • That is a very lovely of you, Sue, to genuinely want to help others for nothing in return, because you want to. One commentor said along these lines on my ‘About’ page: “You are a force to be reckoned with”. I wish more of us can see the simple joy of helping those who need help. And a lot of the time, it’s not hard to help them.

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  16. In the past I did a lot of volunteer work –literary magazine and advocacy work in race relations, immigration matters, then later 5 years for a women’s cycling group to encourage more cycling among women and provide them info., base skills and lead some rides, another cycling advocacy organization in helping at public events.

    Right now, I’m in a statsis and not volunteering for any organization since I moved to the current city where I’m now.

    I did volunteer for 3 years for a cross-cultural resource centre in a conservative, Ontario city where I went to university. The centre provided information for teachers on third world countries, colonialism (which of course in children’s textbooks is hard to get) and race relations. also for Canadians to work overseas in the developing countries. My help there helped confirmed my decision for my Master’s degree in library and information science later on.

    Volunteer work must be viewed as a personal passion : you must be commited, believe in the mandate of the organization. It is never wasted experience and has launched me in several different directions. Made me a better person.

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    • That is really a lot of volunteering, Jean. And you’ve volunteered in a range of areas. I suppose all of them relate to your interests or what you believe in. A lot of the time we will not hesitate to volunteer for an organisation if we truly believe in what they are doing and their vision aligns with our interests and values.

      I found it interesting you volunteered for the cross-cultural resource centre and later decided to do your Masters around this field. You’re right. Volunteering can open our eyes to new directions, take us to new places. There is usually someone you can look up to when you volunteer – maybe your team leader who gets paid leading the volunteer group. These people are always happy to guide you and talk to you about what you’re volunteering for. When I was volunteering in community radio, I was forever pestering my seniors – paid – to organise public events for radio stations. My seniors talked to me about it whenever they were available and after about a year, I got to organise a singing competition event for them. Did I learn from this? Of course. I learnt that it takes a lot of time to put together an event. Volunteering pays in more ways than we expect.

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    • That sounds very sly. But true. Working for free or volunteering, we always hope to learn something along the way. If we didn’t enjoy the experience, then perhaps that role we’re not being paid for isn’t for us.

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  17. I think it all depends on whether or not you are investing in yourself when you are “working for free”. If you’ve been made to clean up the streets all day without a cent of pay and you have no intensions of becoming a street cleaner one day then that’s lost life. But if you’re doing work at a radio station for free and hope to get into the industry one day then you are investing in yourself and that is the payment.

    I’ve got a well paid office job myself but I work for free all the time, and by that, I mean I share a bottle of wine 2 or 3 times a week then write a story about the experience. The lucky wine producer gets free exposure and I’m not paid a cent. Now I’m investing in my joy of wine and that investment is starting to pay off because the wineries are sending us loads of wine, and to be honest, a lifetime’s supply if we want it. I probably wouldn’t need to buy another bottle as long as I keep writing. So that investment in “working for free” by writing about my wine experiences has sort of paid off, although it’s not $$$, but still.

    Anyway, great post Mabel.

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    • Very good point, Conrad. I think a lot of us do work for free or volunteer to gain something in return. Usually it’s because we want to learn something, or we’re passionate about that thing we do for free. Other than that, we would probably be wasting our time and probably feel lousy doing that.

      Sounds like you lead a double life…but can see you – and the other wine wankers – put a lot of effort, heart and soul into writing about wine, the blog, twitter and all. Sort of like you’re giving something to the wine-drinking
      circles out there, and what you get in return is, well, priceless. I’m sure you won’t argue with that 🙂

      And thanks for the nice words.

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  18. This is a great topic and post… I have always thought of volunteering as a time to create opportunities, similar to the ones you mentioned in your post, and it can also be a great place/time to learn/build a passion. Also, it is such a great way to connect as well with people with similar thoughts and ideas.

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    • I like how you say volunteering is a time to create opportunities. Volunteering can give us clarity in our lives. It’s a great way to find out what we truly love doing, what we don’t mind doing and what we don’t want to do for the rest of our lives. It takes quite a lot from us to give up our time for free, I reckon…it’s always so easy to say “No, I don’t want to do this volunteer shift today because I feel lazy”, and not feel too guilty about it. And if you say no, a lot of the times no one will get too mad at you like your boss in a paid job.

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  19. Whe I was younger, my mother told me to volunteer for this, that and the other. She said it would be good for me; build character and experience, and would help me to land the paying jobs I sought by having those volunteer points on my resume. School teachers, and counselors said the same, as did professional advice experts all over the place.

    I wanted to believe. I really did, and despite my doubts due being exposed to a cynical, grab all, and abusive world I did volunteer work. I can say wholeheartedly that absolutely none of it has helped me careerwise. Not a bit. No one has cared whatsoever.

    BUT!

    Despite those who took advantage of me, there were also a few who genuinely needed my voluntary help, and I’m so glad that I did it. I have no regrets in those specific instances.

    Not everyone is going to have the same experiences as me when it comes to volunteer work. Like pretty much anything in life, you’re taking a chance if you do.

    Go for it or don’t.

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    • Thanks for sharing, mofman. It’s interesting to hear you mother encouraged you to put your hand up for a lot of activities. Teachers seem to like to do this too: I always had school trips to pick up rubbish somewhere, helping out older generation in elderly homes, baking scout cookies to sell, helping out at a magazine and so on. Never did I feel taken advantage of. I guess you feel taken advantage of in volunteer work if your “boss” sets you deadlines you have to meet, yells at you or wants you there to do his or her share of work.

      You’re right. Life is an entire game of chance. We miss all the shots we don’t take.

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  20. Great post this Mabel. This is a hot topic for me as I’m sure many of my friends wonder what I’m doing, having the ‘luxury’ of being able to play at writing all day long! I know they don’t think this really but it goes through my mind from time to time! They know I’m at home due to circumstances beyond my control and that I need to help my Aspie daughter who can’t leave the house without me due to her anxiety and doesn’t want anyone else to go with her. I’m confident that the day will come when she will, however. Meantime, I’m making the most of my time (and I was also laid off from my job three years ago) while hubby works building my writing career so that I hope to be able to make some decent money from it one day! This all takes a lot of time. After all, I’m an unknown in the publishing world! Therefore, I’m happy to write for free for various websites and promote my blog in turn but I’ve also been paid when I’ve written for magazines. Very little, but better than nothing! It is hard though getting the balance right. I used to volunteer for a lot of things when my kids were in school, cub scout leader, room mom, party organizer, PTA, sit on committee meetings and take minutes, that kind of thing and then later on teaching Sunday School etc. but that was a while ago. I found that when I went back to paid employment years later that being able to put this all on my CV helped with my experience, something I didn’t even think of at the time as I did it to help out. So to answer your question, in a very long-winded way (sorry about that!) I do think that unpaid work definitely has its benefits, but there does come a point where all the pro and cons need to be weighed one against the other, as you well know! With writing, we just need to keep pressing on and shooting for the dream…
    I wish you all the very best with writing your book Mabel 🙂

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    • Taking care of your daughter must be challenging, but it sounds like a challenge you’re always up to, and you take a lot of pride in that. Balancing writing while being so selfless, I applaud you for that.

      Writing at your own pace and writing whatever you like is a luxury indeed. Sometimes I wonder if I’d like writing as much if I were to be paid for it. If I were to sign with a book publisher, will they want me to write a certain way or will I still have full creative control over my words? But I’m sure things will turn out okay. Writing for free everywhere AND having done a lot of volunteering as a parent, Sherri, it sounds like you’re gaining a lot of publishing experience and a lot of stories to tell. Someday I have faith you’ll bring out a top-selling book. You already share so much and put so much effort on your blog, so I’m sure you’ll get paid for writing someday 🙂 Thanks for your nice words, and stopping by. I feel loved.

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      • Ahh Mabel, you really are such a lovely young woman, I love your intelligence and your way of writing, whether on your excellent blog or in your lovely comments. I am so encouraged by all you share here. Sometimes I do wonder what I’m doing and whether it is all worth it!!! Riddled with self-doubt at times, but then that is the way of us writers isn’t it? I know what you mean about losing creative control, I’m not ready for that either! That would be really hard!
        You should feel loved because you are, very much so 🙂

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  21. Getting experience and access to others opens up no perspectives in the future and you are part of that hidden network. You are on the right track.. good on you.
    As you say , helping others is free and in my case a lot of friends / family look for free computer help. course sometimes I have to Google to be ahead of them 🙂
    I support dog rescue sites in Thailand, Barbados and locally on Vancouver Island
    Run a wee blog as am now retired and social media..
    Cheers / Rob

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    • Definitely. Staying busy and gaining experience can open up a lot of doors. You never know when an opportunity can come up when you’re helping out for free or volunteering. Haha, Googling to stay ahead of your friends. That’s very resourceful of you, I hope that works for you all the time 🙂 All of us don’t have all the answers in the world.

      Thanks for stopping by, Rob, and hope you’re having fun with blogging.

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  22. You always write thoughtful articles. Being about as old as your Mom, perhaps, I can very well understand where she is coming from. We, as parents, want to be assured that our children will be able to fend for themselves. It is a sign of maturity and responsibility.

    On the other hand, working for free, volunteering and the like, is never wasted. At the very least, you helped a fellow human being. On a more personal note, giving and selflessness do bring joy and happiness to the person. They make a person richer in a way that having a lot of money can’t. On a more practical standpoint, when one volunteers, one networks without him or her knowing it. One gets to meet people who may open opportunities for the volunteer. A volunteer place is a nice place to prove ones worth and character without too being conscious about it.

    So volunteer when you can, work for free, while you keep your day job to keep yourself fed and your Mom happy. 🙂

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  23. I worked hard for 30 years (self-employed) and earned a decent living, at the end of the day I’d come home and work my butt off again and never earned a penny, but the payoff is knowing that I raised 3 amazing kids who are now – happy, successful and caring adults. I retired from self-employed work a few years ago in order to fulfill a dream – to obtain a university degree in psychology which I find so fascinating. I also volunteer at an outreach centre for homeless youth which I find very rewarding.

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    • Worked hard for 30 years all on your own. That’s so hard working of you, you must be very dedicated to what you do to make a living. And love it. One day I hope to make a living out of self-employment. Sounds like you led (lead) a very unconventional lifestyle. Good on you for going after your degree. It’s never too late to work for that and most importantly, never to late to learn. Volunteering is always rewarding – helping others in need and one of the best “rewards” you can get from it is smiling faces.

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  24. Some people give money for charity… others contribute their time and skills (by volunteering). It’s essentially the same thing – giving something towards a “greater cause” that you feel strongly about. In return it is enriching in its own way… from what we learn, what it adds to our character/ personality and/ or how it makes us feel about ourselves. But it is primarily about giving. I see internship as being different in a way. Because you do work for free (or minimal pay) specifically to gain skill sets/ experiences (which add to your CV value), which you may not have gained otherwise. And not everyone can be an “intern”. To me, that is more of a give and take.

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    • Giving towards a greater cause. That makes a lot of sense. That’s why volunteering is priceless. You can learn a whole new set of skills, form a network of connections and yes, feel better about ourselves and personality. So true. Not everyone will have the opportunity to be an intern. A lot of the times you have to put in an application and go through a series of interviews before you can intern for a company. Volunteering is usually more relaxed. Usually you only need to have a chat with the organisation and then sign out a few volunteer agreement forms, then off you go volunteering.

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  25. Many of my jobs have been as a volunteer and some ended up getting me a paid position as a result. I can say from experience that we are richer people when we give to others out of our desire to help and be useful. I’ve had many fun international opportunities because of my willingness to give share my expertise. An excellent article Mabel!.

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    • So nice to hear of your positive experience volunteering. It can definitely open up doors for us, and it seemed that way for you. Helping others for free, I don’t think we can put a price tag on that. What goes around, comes around. A lot of people I have said they got bored volunteering – most of the time they signed up to volunteer in the first place because they thought it was fun. Sure, volunteering is fun but there’s always a whole other side to volunteering besides that: learning, enriching lives and giving.

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