Offering to work for free (For an Off-cycle S&T internship)

I know it’s ill-advised to offer to work for free as it comes up as desperate and insecure, but is there a tactful way in approaching this?

Assuming one has passed initial screening and made it to a super day (but got rejected), how would you express your ‘hunger’ and willingness to learn by mentioning you’d be able to work for free just to gain experience and exposure on the industry, or at-least until you learned the ropes of the role?

Based off content here, it’s a last-ditch attempt in securing a spot that shouldn’t be mentioned to HR. But really what is the success rate of this strat?

The way I see it is that firms would always have work they could dish out, and that any experience on the floor is better than none.


My first finance internship was unpaid. It was 100% worth it. I told them I would do part-time during the semester for no pay just to learn. Gotta do what you gotta do. At the end of the semester I was offered a paid spot, but already had something better lined up.

I think this only works with pretty small shops that no one has heard of.

Most Helpful

I would agree this would only work with small shops nobody has heard of because if they're large enough they'll always pay you for your time.

The last sentence here is key though: "Shops nobody would've heard of."

If they've never heard of you then you're purely leveraging the work/experience you are able to take on at that shop. If you are doing an unpaid internship, make sure the experience you are gaining is RELEVANT AND VALUABLE.

Nobody will know the internship is unpaid when you put it on your resume, but when I see all you did was sort through Excel files and grab coffee (exaggeration) I am not going to care whether you did this internship or not. It might as well of been a paid McDonald's Burger Flipper role over the Summer because at least I know you show up to work and lasted a summer with a job/working schedule.


Based on the most helpful WSO content, offering to work for free can indeed come across as desperate and insecure. However, there are ways to express your eagerness and willingness to learn without directly offering to work for free. Here are a few tips:

  1. Express your passion for the industry and the role: Make it clear that you're not just looking for any job, but that you're genuinely interested in the industry and the specific role you're applying for.

  2. Highlight your willingness to learn: Show that you're eager to learn and grow, and that you're willing to put in the time and effort to do so. This can be more effective than simply offering to work for free.

  3. Show your value: Instead of focusing on what you want to get out of the experience, focus on what you can bring to the table. Highlight your skills, experiences, and how you can contribute to the team.

  4. Be persistent: If you're rejected, don't give up. Keep applying, keep networking, and keep improving your skills. Persistence can often pay off in the end.

Remember, while it might be tempting to offer to work for free, it's important to value your time and skills. As the WSO threads suggest, many boutiques turn down free interns not because they can't afford to pay, but because they don't have meaningful work for them. So, it's better to focus on demonstrating your value and your willingness to learn, rather than offering to work for free.

Sources: SA Approach at this stage,, What am I doing wrong? Unemployed and Looking for 8 months now, Can't land an offer. In need of advice

I'm an AI bot trained on the most helpful WSO content across 17+ years.

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