How Do You Know if You're Moving Forward?Complications Ensue
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Sunday, November 30, 2008

How do you know when something is leading nowhere?

It's one thing to blindly follow orders, but it's another to taken advantage of.

Working for free sucks. Working for free with no signs of your situation changing is worse. Especially since Visa doesn't care that things might get better one day.
I think the first question is: what are your choices? Everything is relative. A crappy job for money is usually better than a crappy job for free. A crappy job for free is usually better than no job at all. Only you can decide whether picking up the elephant dung at the circus is better than leaving show business.

You can only know that something is leading nowhere when you are putting everything you have into it. There's a proverb in bike racing: "leave everything on the road." If you're holding back, then you don't know if the job is leading nowhere or if you're just not following.

You know a job is leading somewhere when you start getting more responsibility, making new contacts, and learning how to do new things. If you're still doing the same tasks six months later (for an internship) or a year later (for a paid job), and you haven't seriously expanded the circle of people who recognize your name, then it's time to start asking your boss if there isn't more you could be doing, and how you could be doing it better.

Then, if you don't like the answers you're getting, you might consider looking elsewhere. Sometimes the process of looking elsewhere leads to new responsibilities, as people realize they're going to lose you. It will also often clarify for you whether you're forwarding yourself in your current job.

I'm not advocating threatening to quit. You have the conversation that makes clear that you would like know how you could be moving up the food chain. Then if you quit, you've warned them; and if you don't quit, you haven't burned any bridges.

But almost everybody understands that people can't work for free forever. (If they don't, they're not worth working for.) If you're in an internship, it's entirely legit to say, "I'd love to keep working here, but I'm running out of money. Whaddya say?"



I did exactly that as a post-production intern, and was hired. Then again, my friend had a different experience in a similar situation: he only got to do repetitive intern jobs for months, and was always promised "more things to work on", if he just waited a while longer.

Needless to say, there never came more things to work on. Nor did he get any useful contacts out of working for free for so long, or any relevant skills. I had a very useful internship at the same time somewhere else, so you might call that bad luck.
But it's your own fault as well, if you stay in a situation like that for more than you needed to recognise it as a dead end.

By Blogger Jesse, at 11:04 AM  

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