What Do You Think Of A Non-Paid Work Trial?


One of the men in a group I’m assisting to find employment is a Cook by profession. He’s just started applying for work this week with an improved resume and to be honest, he’s feeling pretty upbeat because he looks better on paper and it’s rubbed off on other aspects of his job search too. He’s taking pride in his appearance, both with grooming and clothing issues.

But what is really impressing him is that on the first day of a 10 day job search group, he got out and dropped off a resume in person at a restaurant after learning through a friend that they were in need of a Cook. And here’s a sequence of events he put in play of late. Last week he accepts my offer to participate in a job search group (first good decision), Monday of this week, he improves his resume immediately (after an honest critique) and goes in person to drop it off (initiative) before too many others learn of it. He ends up with a mini-interview on the spot (prepared and dressed for it), and Tuesday is asked to show up Wednesday at 9:00 a.m. for a full day of unpaid work to show what he can do (proving his skills). Today he will be there which could lead to a job offer (seizing an opportunity to let his skills back up his claims).

That’s quite a lot of good individual decisions he’s made of late that could lead to being hired in a matter of days. But I wonder, how many people seeking work would be willing if the opportunity presented itself, to contribute as little as a day of themselves on a voluntary basis in order to demonstrate their skills? Not all of us are in a position to do this I understand based on the type of work we do; and not all employers are also in a position to have people not on their payroll come in and work for them. I mean what if he should have an accident or someone fall ill based on food he prepared? So there are issues like insurance and liabilities here.

But would you work free for a day knowing that at the end you may have a job or you may have just given someone 7 or 8 hours of your skills and experience for where nothing is guaranteed? And is that ethical? I’m not leaning one way or the other because there are pros and cons but it’s up to the person to actually make the choice that works for them. Okay, I do have an opinion, and yes, I’d do the 1 day audition too. Even if it doesn’t lead to employment, he gets in a kitchen, maintains some preparation and cooking skills, gets to see if that place is somewhere he’d like to compete for in the future, or it could reveal to him reasons why it isn’t such a wonderful place to be. Maybe he’ll be grateful for the experience and grateful he didn’t get hired in the end if he sees staff being treated poorly, or shoddy practices he can’t live with.

What I really like about the decisions he’s made so far is the initiative. While all the decisions are good ones in this example, the one I really applaud him for most is the decision to get out there. Too often I find people think job searching in 2014 means sitting comfortably behind a monitor and pumping out resumes to email or applying on websites. Oh of course that’s a good strategy, but sitting behind a computer should only be one part of an intensive job search plan.

Getting yourself presentable and hitting the streets with your resumes is old school. And old school works. If you for example do your research on a Monday, construct your resumes and cover letters on a Tuesday, and head on out to drop them off in person on a Wednesday, you can still be applying online on the Thursday. Nothing is this cut and dried in real life, but my point is you need to diversify your time and spend some of it getting out there.

For starters, you’ll develop or keep your people skills sharp. Meeting potential employers gives you a chance to soak up the atmosphere of a company or business. You can see how the people dress, speak, move, note if things are really busy or laid back, and you might get an interview on the spot as in the case of this Cook. Other benefits? You get some exercise, feel like you are doing something instead of sitting all day, you’re around people instead of being isolated and feeling cut-out, your senses get some stimulation listening to the noise, smelling the various scents in the air, your eyes get a change of scenery and your brain gets stimulated in ways you just can’t get sitting at the kitchen table or a classroom.

Things are moving fast for my Cook. Even if he isn’t hired, or he isn’t hired immediately, I applaud the decisions he’s been making so far in the early going. A 10 day class is a really short time to get help with a job search, and he’s making the most of it. You can often get all the advice in the world but only the wisest actually act on the help they get and initiate change. Be the change.

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2 thoughts on “What Do You Think Of A Non-Paid Work Trial?

  1. I can’t agree more with the need to get out and do something while job searching. Good luck to your cook. Personally, I think an unpaid trial period is something we should consider, especially if we need to prove out abilities in a career where we have little expertise.

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  2. I would work for free for a day if asked to by a prospective employer. I think it would be a good opportunity to not only prove I can handle the job, but to find out what actually working there is like. As far as handing out resumes in person, it’s getting to the point where the vast majority of employers want you to apply online. This is the case at least in my area for the kind of jobs I would be applying for.

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