I have just applied to a position posted but have concerns with some of their job requirements. This position is a business consultant position. One of the requirements is a 3 month training program during which I will be unpaid. Afterward, the company will attempt to outsource me to a client of theirs that can use the skills I have. Successful employment placement would not be guaranteed. I have concerns about this arrangement and perhaps whether its unethical. I have not heard of such an arrangement in the industry(financial services) before. I would appreciate some advice on how to proceed with the firm. Finally, I am in the United States.

Thank you and I appreciate any feedback the community may provide!

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    Run. Run like the hounds of Hell are on your heels. Don't look back. "Unpaid training" is what most of us know as "College," and you end up with an accredited degree at the end of it. This doesn't even come close to passing the "Smell Test." – Wesley Long Nov 29 '14 at 4:51
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    @WesleyLong Thanks. Its what I thought as well. The unpaid training part sounded like a ploy to extract labor from the employee without a guarantee of placement afterwards. Really shady. – Anthony Nov 29 '14 at 5:52
  • @WesleyLong I don't know how you can say this does not even come close to passing the "Smell Test". Back in the 80's IBM had an 18 month training program with a very low salary that was the equivalent of an MBA. "College" has tuition. – paparazzo Nov 29 '14 at 5:54
  • @Blam I dont understand that comment. I don? – Anthony Nov 29 '14 at 5:58
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    @Blam - IBM was still paying people at least the minimum wage, and I believe they hired everyone who didn't wash out, but that was before my time, admittedly. You can take this opportunity, if you wish, but this reeks of a scam, based on my experience: workplace.stackexchange.com/a/17195/9264 – Wesley Long Nov 29 '14 at 8:10

Unless you are an undergraduate getting credit hours for it (or doing it to improve your resume for future "real" jobs, AND would otherwise be idle), I don't consider an unpaid internship reasonable. Low-paid until you meet some clearly specified and achievable certification requirement, with raise guaranteed thereafter, might be acceptable, but be sure to get that in writing.

Most "trial periods" are of the latter type, paid at least a reasonable living wage for that time period.

If they can get your landlord to give you free rent for those months and your grocery store to give you free food, then maybe you can afford to give them free work with no guarantees. If not, then if they're at all serious about having you work for them they should at least pay you enough to cover those costs.

EXCEPTION: If there really is specialized knowledge which requires additional training you didn't get in college, there might be some justification in essentially charging you for the training. Maybe. But I would bet that if you continue looking you'll find someone who will make you a better offer. (With the possible exceptions of insurance salesman or real estate agent.)

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  • It was clearly stated that a condition of employment was to be able to support myself economically during the three months of unpaid training – Anthony Nov 29 '14 at 16:21
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    Well, up to you, but I wouldn't take that deal unless it really is the norm for the profession or there is something which makes this position a truly exceptional opportunity. – keshlam Nov 29 '14 at 16:23

I have concerns about this arrangement and perhaps whether its unethical.

I cannot tell you whether it is ethical or not. However, I would not take up the offer. Free training often includes contractual conditions. For example, if you leave the training or the company before a set date, you likely have to pay a fee. The "training" may include real work you should be paid for. You also imply you may not be paid if they cannot place you with a client.

Ironically, if they charged you for the training then only agreed to hire you if you passed the final exam, it would be much more straight forward. Presumably, the training would have value by itself and the job at the end being a bonus. Paying you a trainee salary during training then increased it for successful completion would also be cleaner.

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  • To add more information, during training I will be taught by the company all the skills to be a successful consultant to the client. This is done on an at-will basis. If I am outsourced to a client, I still remain as an employee of this company. – Anthony Nov 29 '14 at 6:46

I remember hearing pitches from companies like State Farm and Primerica that would be similar to this from the perspective that initially one would be working unpaid to "learn the ropes" where one could get residual income based on various products and services customers bought. The question is how well do you want to be the guy that is selling insurance and investments to people compared to other jobs. In the US I was ineligible to take the work but I have seen some Canadian companies that have a similar process where the idea is to start out doing the work part-time though I can wonder to what extent is this tapping into one's network for new clients as a lead generation technique. I'd imagine for some people this works quite well and others may not have it be so good and thus your mileage may vary would be the standard caution I'd give.

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The other answers have already explained that this is a questionable offer, unless the training is really valuable.

In addition to that, you should check whether this offer is even legal. In many countries there are laws about minium wages, and these laws generally make it illegal to work without being paid. There may or may not be exceptions for "training periods", but to be sure check with someone who knows employment law in your jurisdiction.

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