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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Forget 'Funemployment.' Hot New Trend: Working, Without Pay, For Private Companies.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 11:59 AM

Don't laugh -- it's a resume-filler.
  • Don't laugh -- it's a resume-filler.
When we ran our 'Funemployment' cover story about how some young San Franciscans, to paraphrase the sage words of Aerosmith, are "livin' it up 'till they hit the ground," a number of people reacted vehemently. Misery loves company, and out-of-work folks searching like mad for a job resented the Funemployed's serenity -- while those working a job and making money resented that unemployed people could be having so much more fun than they are.

Well, watch out: This door swings both ways. Today in downtown San Francisco, hundreds of locals -- some with advanced degrees -- will gather to volunteer their services to private companies. We restate: People are working, sans pay, for private, for-profit companies -- 13th Amendment be damned.

The advent of "Freemium Jobs" is the brainchild of Julie Greenberg and Alan Shusterman, San Francisco-based co-founders of the Web site JobNob. Greenberg presents today's 4:30 p.m. get-together of hundreds of job-seekers and representatives of more than 70 companies at Jillians as an altruistic attempt to connect the unemployed and start-ups ostensibly without the funds to pay for workers. When asked if it's exploitative to direct desperate, out-of-work individuals to private companies that have no intention of paying for their services -- and offer no guarantees the company's future success will enrich the job-seekers in any way -- she says it's not. These, she notes, are the times we live in -- and job-seekers have been ringing her off the hook to bring these (non-paying) job fairs around the country. 

Greenberg -- a Stanford business school grad whose Web site lists salaries for a plethora of jobs and companies -- says volunteering at start-ups will keep the unemployed from having that "proverbial white space" showing up on their resume, and will keep them in the game.

"Some companies are looking to hire, but it's not about traditional job fare," she says. "It's about matching up job-seekers willing to work for free and startups that, if they get funded, those volunteer jobs will hopefully turn into pay jobs -- but there's no guarantee of that."

That's a far cry from the folks in the late '90s and early portion of this decade who latched on for free at start-ups hoping stock options would turn them into Internet millionaires. Now people don't want to be wealthy on paper but just write on a paper that they've been working.

The notion of servitude as the wave of the future is less distressing than who, exactly, is champing at the bit to work for free. Greenberg confirms there'll be a July event at the Stanford Club of San Francisco aimed exclusively at graduates from her alma mater. Talks are in the works for a San Francisco Harvard Club event -- and if that's not a sign of nightmarish economic times, what is? Greenberg said representatives from UCLA, USC, and Pepperdine have contacted her about a Los Angeles event, as have people in cities across the nation.

Anyhow, today's event is free -- and at the very worst, you'll get a drink out of it and some free food. "Will work for food" -- hmmm. That has a nice ring to it.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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