How Taking On Free Work Hurts Your Career

March 15, 2012  |  

Although the conventional thought has always been to give above and beyond on the job and to others, as well as to do more than you’ve been asked, a Forbes article cautions that this type of thinking is flawed. It warns women who provide their expertise for free that it may be damaging to their careers.

So what’s the problem with taking on assignments for free? It’s all about respect. Very simply, it sends the message that experience and time isn’t valuable. When a woman then takes on that task for free, she too is stating that her services aren’t valuable.

“We’re so inculcated in the model of trading and giving things away…and I think this mentality really hurts us,” Lisa Gates, cofounder of SheNegotiates said to Forbes. “Pay first, add value later might be a better motto.”

Women who make their money conducting workshops, seminars and giving speeches often find themselves asked to do so for free with the excuse that a group has a small budget. Other groups often throw in that they have succeeded in getting other professionals to do so for free in the past. These organizations need to truly understand what they are asking and saying of women, especially if the group is benefiting financially from a certain initiative they have asked this woman to do for free.

The same should apply even if you’re asked to speak or present a workshop to a student-run college group. If you’re giving these students advice on a subject for free you may as well essentially be telling them that your advice and experience cost nothing. What should they in turn do in the future when they are the experts in the field?

While there are some charity and pro bono work that are exceptions to this standard, maintain your professional dignity by charging for the services you’ve worked hard to excel in.

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