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Working For Free. Get Your Dream Job.

Best Selling Author and Marketing Genius Charlie Hoehn, in this compelling TED X talk, reveals how he radically re-imagined finding his dream job, and how his strategy boiled down to doing what you see yourself doing as a career - FOR FREE first.

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What really stood out to me in this video is that Charlie Hoehn decided that he was NOT going to settle, AND he was willing to work for free, to achieve his goals.  His pursuit of doing passionate work, lead him down an unconventional path, that proved to be wildly successful for him 


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Charlie's advice is great for those without financial obligations. But for those of us who graduate needing to support our parents and/pr children, pay off student loans and pay rent, working for free becomes a much less viable option.

But even for those who have the privilege to be able to work for free, there is another problem: If enough people choose to work for free, employers (particularly those who don't care much about quality) could replace some employees with nonpaid volunteers (as is already the case with interns).

And, as a small side note, it is technically illegal, at least in the United States, to volunteer for a non-familial for-profit company. So I would add an addendum to Charlie's advice: If you want to work for free, do so for a nonprofit! It is both legal and, arguably, of greater societal benefit.

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Hi David!! I don't know... I can agree that there are cases where "working for free" is not very "realistic" for some. BUT I would have to argue that Charlie's approach is legal, AND very provocative at the same time. There would be nothing stopping me, if I had the drive and ambition to do so, to approach a company that I have interest in working for, identify a problem they may have OR a better way of them doing something, and offering my service/ideas for free. IF my proposals and or solutions work for the company, and I am okay with giving my proposal/services away, then I really do not believe that there is a law that would keep me from doing that.

Furthermore, what Charlie does illuminate, is this idea, that delivering value to a company or individual upfront, with no risk on either side, is a great way to show your skills and ability. The objective? Get the job that everyone is "Resume Competing" for by actually showing the target company that you have the chops to get the job done.

I don't know... I am not Charlie, and I don't have any claims on the dollars that he makes from his best selling book on the matter (Recession Proof Graduate) which talks about this idea of "Free Work" - BUT I can say this... Charlie delivers an insight into the mindset of a 21st century graduate. Part of this problem, I believe rest in the idea that if you just follow the "playbook" you will be okay - I think the statistics are showing us that this is not true.

Thanks for your feedback and contribution to the conversation!!

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Vincent, volunteering for a non-familial for-profit company is illegal in the United States (as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, at the very least).

According to the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act, one "may not volunteer services to for-profit private sector employers":

That is why there is the current hubbub around unpaid internships, and why most for-profit employers only allow unpaid internships for academic credit. The idea is that if one is doing an unpaid internship, then one is receiving academic credit and training/education as compensation. In illegal unpaid internships, interns act as employees and do not receive training/education, even if receiving academic credit.

Generally speaking, anyone can volunteer for the public sector (nonprofits and government), according to the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act.

For-profit companies that accept unpaid volunteers, such as what Charlie suggests, are in violation of the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act.

That may not bother you, Charlie or the companies that will accept your or his volunteer work, but it is still illegal.

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Again, thanks for your input David - It is indeed valued. BUT let me please reiterate: My point is not 100% rooted in what Charlie did OR what he has written about. I need it to be clear, that my connection with his story rest in his "thinking" ... Because while we can easily "blame the system" for the tragedy we face, we can NOT dismiss the idea that if graduating students are NOT re-thinking the old model(s), HOWEVER "they" do it, then they are going to find themselves adding to the statistics.

We have to think about ways that we can give graduating students the critical thinking, "take action" mentality that it takes for them gain traction in a very volatile marketplace.

Charlie's approach is Charlie's approach alone, AND anyone else that has taken his advice - I am not an advocate of his methodology, but I am an observer of what he did - legal or NOT legal... Here is what "I" took away from it: Charlie did not let the conformity of how it's always been done to become his trap. He reinvented how the job seeking process works "FOR HIM" and his boldness to share his methods is another testimony to the "type of thinking" that graduating students must have.

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