Would you do voluntary work for a big PLC?

I get lots of emails with opportunities for my students and graduates. Some are for paid work, part-time, full-time and temporary; others are for unpaid placements and some are for voluntary work.

It can be controversial point, but I don’t normally mind people asking for unpaid placements. Our students need work experience, and unpaid placements are a good way of getting everybody placed. Often if a student is helpful, people find a way of paying them (always happened for me that way anyway) or will give them the nod when some paid work comes about. It’s the way things happen, and it mostly works. The key thing always is that the student must get some value from it or it’s pointless. That may be a pay day, it may be a fantastic learning opportunity, and ideally it would be both. Sometimes the student can make a real impact in an organisation such as a charity that couldn’t afford to get help from the commercial sector. That’s pretty good karma.

Recently I got a few emails from http://www.adunetwork.com/. They want someone to work with them on a project for Colgate-Palmolive. That could be interesting, I guess. It’s a big name to go on a CV. The candidate needs to be ” both passionate about social media and skilled in storytelling to join our panel”. We have a lot of those.

I asked them if this was a paid gig, or a work experience placement. Apparently it’s neither. It’s “a volunteer student panel”. Dimitry from Adunetwork continues:

“The amount of work really depends on  how efficiently the students develop their final 2-minute presentation video. I do not anticipate the students having to spend more than 2 hours per week working on the final product because we are asking that the video(s) be un-polished and not overly-edited. They also have over a month-and-a-half to complete the project for Colgate-Palmolive.”

Here’s a link to what he needs: http://bit.ly/aHuc6L. You can apply here http://bit.ly/dArh4E should you wish.

Personally, I don’t think this is fair. Colgate-Palmolive could afford to pay if they want this project doing, and this isn’t “voluntary” work as I understand it. But I won’t stop any of my students applying if they want to and I’d be interested to know what they think: is this an opportunity? And what does it say of how advertising and marketing agencies conceive of social media as serious work?

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Jon Hickman

Hi, I'm Jon. I teach and research digital culture, social media and new media practice at Birmingham City University. Find out more about me with this lovely CV: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jonhickman Find out about my work at the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research: http://interactivecultures.org

  • Jake Grimley

    Most aspiring digital marketeers will end up doing *anything* to get their first top-tier brand portfolio piece, and brands understand this. So you could argue that this is valuable experience in more than one way. Espescially if you consider that most graduates really struggle with commercial thinking.That said – this is really a student project focus group, no?

  • Jon Hickman

    Jake, I’m not sure. They apparently have to work two hours a week and make video. Which sounds like work to me. And they need to pitch ideas to the CEO apparently. So are they just doing grunt work on the agency’s pitch?