20 Reasons Gen-Y Shouldn't Work for Free
1. This whole generational “work for free’ thing is not the way things have always been – its a dysfunctional feature of Great Recession where everyone was pinching pennies and a class of unemployed young people were available to be exploited.
2. We often “hired” free interns simply because you were being hawked by your universities and graduate and professional schools. We’re sorry. We weren’t thinking clearly. When we were young, we could live off of $200/month and still pay our enormous tuitions somewhere between $600 and $3,000/year. We interned. Why not you? Because we didn’t graduate burdened by tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. Our debt was manageable. Forgive us. We weren’t thinking clearly.
3. Anyone in business – including non-profits – must generate enough money to operate. They must pay their gas and electric bills for the power they receive. You should not give your power away free just because some organizations don’t believe they can afford it.
4. There’s a one percent difference in obtaining paid employment for young people who work for free and those who do not. In other words, if you’re working for free, you only have a one percent advantage over your presumed competitors in a lazy job market.
5. Many employers don’t give internships any credence at all when reviewing your resumes. They figure, “she worked for free; this ‘job’ doesn’t tell me whether she was good enough to be hired.”
6. If you get a paid job doing clerical work in your field, you can promote yourself there while you’re being paid and rise up through the ranks (it’s a low bar to move from a clerical position where some people are working at full capacity to a more professional position)
7. You are depriving yourself of future benefits when you’re not paying payroll taxes – social security, for instance, the pay-out from which is based on your lifetime earnings.
8. If you’re working for free, you’re likely displacing clerical workers who make a living doing clerical work and cannot find jobs because – among other things – recent grads are doing their work for free.
9. No matter how little people have told you you should think of yourselves, you are a store of enormous value. If you weren’t, why did you go into debt to ready yourself for the job market . . . tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. In a market economy, value is exchanged for value. It’s the way the economy works.
10. I am stealing from you if I use the value you possess to make my business more efficient and my work more effective. STEALING!!
11. It’s bad enough that I’m paying you minimum wage (I personally pay above “living” wage on which no one could live in Los Angeles). To pay you nothing devalues me as much as it devalues you.
12. The 13th Amendment.
13. I’m going to assume your left-leaning University (weren’t your Profs old hippie radicals raised during a time when America believed it could provide everyone with the basic necessities of life?) I’m going to assume your left-leaning University taught you the meaning of “wage slave.” That’s minimum wage and in some geographic regions, it’s also the presumed “living” wage. Take the word “wage” out of “wage slave” and what do you get. I thought so. See the 13th Amendment above.
14. The next great sub-prime financial debacle is believed by some to be your generation’s inability to pay back your student debt. Gee, what’s the solution to that? Pay your workers!
15. Yes, you do learn some parts of your trade working for free. But you can also learn your trade while you’re getting paid. It’s called OJT or “on the job training.” It’s not called IST – “in servitude training.”
16. Why should I be entitled to the fruits of your labor? Really. Give me ten reasons. Five. Three. I can’t think of any. If I can’t pay Gen-Y minimum wage, I shouldn’t be in business for myself. Or I should skip that third or tenth or twentieth pair of shoes.
17. I know how to make money because I’ve spent a lifetime working. You are just graduating into the real world. You do not possess the resources (or the social capital) I do to raise enough money to support another, valuable, irreplaceable, one of a kind worker. I can make enough money to pay you. You likely are far less well qualified to do so.
18. Lord Grantham, for heaven’s sake, believed it his duty to provide employment for his village even if it meant losing his estate.
19. You are not a widget in a widget factory. There are not twenty or thirty of you standing behind you looking for work. You cannot be replaced by another random 25 or 26 year old. I know how valuable you are. Find someone between 40 and 60 – or heck – all the way to 90 – grandma’s a good source – and ask them to list the numerous ways in which you bring entirely unique value to a potential employer. Then go out and convince a few fuzzy-headed elders like me that it would be shameful to take that value and use it to our benefit for free.
20. You have student debts to pay and a tax base to widen. The future of the country belongs to you, not us. Take it by the horns now, as early as you can. Don’t be anyone’s fool. Get a job. Get paid. Not only you, but we, will be glad you did.
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Go. Do. Prosper.