I don’t understand why people become so shocked when I tell them to offer their skills and time for free before they get someone to pay for those skills. To them, it is a most stupid thing. They would rather wait (for eternity) until a paying job comes, rather than do anything for free. But these people rush into internship offers from dubious companies who use them and spit them out to accommodate another set of ‘interns’.
But it really is not. Offering your skills and time for free is actually not a bad thing. It pays well in the long run. In fact, it is a good move for young graduates (and any person) that intends to build a lasting career and stand out, especially those without a job.
While you are looking for a job, staying in shape is very important. Take for example a footballer who is out of the academy without a team. Should he go home to the village and tell his agent to go looking for a team while lazing around, or should he keep going to the gym, training (and playing for FREE) with local teams?

If he stays at home, chances are that he will go rusty and when an offer comes, he will be too rusty to pass the test. If he has been keeping fit, two things may happen: he will be fit when the chance comes and/or he will get an offer, right there where he is working for free.
You have a lot to gain working for free, for experience, to hone your skills.That skill you gain on the free job may be what will stand you out from other applicants, probably with better grades than you are presenting.
Personally, I have made a habit of offering my services, FREE where necessary, especially to those who need it the most because they are the ones that will let me explore and learn.
I wasn’t being paid (much) but I was learning. It reflected in my grades and in my final year project. I finished my final year project six months before schedule and my supervisor made me a ‘mini-supervisor’ of sorts to some of my course mates.
It was at that point that I started my first blog. That blog is the foundation of the Facebook page that has now become my fast growing publishing company WORDS RHYMES & RHYTHM.
For one, your CV will thank you for it. Imagine being unemployed for two years and then you go for an interview and the interviewer asked you what you’ve been doing since you graduated two years ago. What would your response be?

I am a living example of this. When I got my second job at Daily Trust, someone who was a year lower than me in the university and who graduated with a less impressive result than mine (I was the 2nd best graduating student) was placed higher than me on the pay grade, despite the fact that I had worked for some months in Port Harcourt and he had just finished NYSC. Why? Simple: he had written some articles for the newspaper, free of charge, right from when he was an undergraduate. You see? Just a few articles and he skips over my head.

Secondly, the place where you are working for free may end up becoming the place where you will be working for pay, hiring other. Or, better still, you might learn so much and become so useful that someone will poach you from there. An example of the first is my colleague at my first place of work. She came in as a cleaner and decided to be helping out in the accounts section. She soon became a master at Microsoft Excel and was noticed. Then the boss employed her as an office assistant. She was encouraged to write WAEC and JAMB. She did and in a few years got a degree, and then a Masters Degree followed. Now, she is superior to some of the folks whose offices she used to clean some 10 years back. Would she have gotten in if she had refused to help, for FREE, in the accounts section? I think she might have had a stellar career as a cleaner.

I will talk about three instances on my professional career.

When I was an undergraduate at the Ahmadu Bello University, I offered my services to a lecturer as a research assistant. I would scour hundreds of books and web pages on his behalf for hours on end. It was rigorous.
I still make some money from researching, especially content analysis. My research skills have helped me in every single place I have worked since then.
The second instance is during my NYSC in Anambra state. I created a volunteer team of teachers to boost the English speaking and writing ability of students in the senior classes at the Nnamdi Azikwe Senior Secondary School Abagana where I was posted. It was there that I was scouted (by the principal) to teach English and Literature at the African Thinkers College of Inquiry (ATCOI), an institution affiliated with the Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka. I was paid a weekly wage there. It is no wonder that I left NYSC with nearly NGN100,000 while my colleagues borrowed transport fares to return home.

I also remember that, on returning home from NYSC and finding no job, I visited one small internet café in Maraba a lot. I spent a large part of my NYSC savings surfing the web for jobs and scholarships. Soon, I was close pals with the owner of the café, because I spent a lot of time there. I offered him my typing services since I had nothing to do with my free time. I was faster than he was (another skills gained working as my lecturer’s research assistant) so he obliged. He rewarded me by allowing me to use internet free, provided there was no customer.
Can you see now how offering your services (and time) without pay is actually not offering it out for FREE. Volunteering for a cause, helping out at hospitals etc are not only skill-building opportunities but also good for networking.
Above all, using your skills to make someone happy gives a good feeling. I love it. You will love it too. Just give it a try, today.


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