TL;DR: As an under-qualified software engineer in Australia that came from overseas, should I offer to work for free or should I keep working on my skills before applying for a paid job after PhD?
Goal: To get a full time job in Machine Learning / Data Science and graduate from PhD asap.
Background: I've attained my Bachelor's from software engineering, worked as a software engineer for about a year (6 years ago), finished a master's degree in Computer Science (all of them overseas), had about a year of gap before starting my PhD in Australia (now 1.5+ years in). My PhD is also in Computer Science, funded by a scholarship from an Australian university.
My PhD is in a very similar/same field with the job that I would like to get into (Deep Learning / Machine Learning). I live in a small-ish city where I have recently found a startup with 5 employees which I would like to work for (they were hiring for a full time, now the ad for the position has been removed).
I feel quite underqualified for the job, as I lack both experience and knowledge to do so. I am also not a citizen but I do have work permit from my student visa, and my English is great. Options:
- Offer to work for free for the startup: Since startups usually lack funds and manpower, I think they would be inclined to accept. I can work for 2 days (20 hours) and work for PhD for 4 days (40 hours) and survive with the money from PhD. Graduate. Then look for a job for after graduation with "1 year of experience in the field" + reference maybe.
- Offer to work for free for the first 3 months: This is to "get my foot into the door", gain experience, hopefully do OK. Then I could ask for something like a minimum wage. Showing payslips is great for visa.
- Self-educate from online courses: I could spend some money and take some online courses, certifications and build up a portfolio with projects. Graduate from PhD and then apply for a job.
- Apply for internships? Could be an option, but it could be tough since I'm entering into my final year of PhD.
Thanks in advance.