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I was recently terminated from a full-time job because of business difficulties and budget cuts. I'm still interested in maintaining whatever level of employment I can with the same company, part time. The primary purpose of this type of work is to fill a potential hole in my time/gap in my resume with the same employer, gain experience, and complete tasks. I don't expect to be offered a formal working contract or meaningful financial compensation. Most likely, the best I would be able to do is volunteer.

The usual response is to simply walk away from a former employer once a contract is ended, but I've been wondering about this option.

(1) I have references from my former employer, and am continuing to pursue other references from the same employer. How do I pursue the volunteer work in a way that can only help the quality of the references, not hurt?

(2) If I do receive the volunteer work, what is the best way to present it to future employers?

NOTE: Originally I described this category of work as microwork/microjob https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro_job, as I mentioned that I was willing to work for snacks and office supplies. Hence the suggestion to describe it as temp work.

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    Asking to come back and work in exchange for snack food or note paper would almost certainly come across as very weird and will almost certainly reflect negatively on you unless you're already seen as pretty odd or you have a very unusual employer. Depending on where you are, it would probably also be problematic from the standpoint of things like minimum wage laws. It's relatively common for former employees to come back as consultants which could be done part-time at a rate lower than your former salary if that's what you're really interested in. – Justin Cave Aug 28 '15 at 22:02
  • @JustinCave Thanks for the tips. Yes, I'm willing to explore responding to a common situation (being terminated from a job when one's financial situation is not in crisis) in an unusual way (dividing both the responsibilities and the compensation for the job into individual components and aiming to restore as many components as possible). Perhaps volunteering is a more standard description of what seems achievable here. FYI - my field is software engineering, and with the company having difficulties with its current line of business, I'm aiming for "interesting and out-of-the-box." – INCREMENTALIST Aug 29 '15 at 2:32
  • Volunteering to work at a for-profit company, particularly one that previously employed you doing software development, would almost assuredly violate whatever minimum wage laws are in place in your country. Why are you intent on working for this particular employer? If you're willing to work for snacks an office supplies, there are tons of sites where employers post programming jobs that you could bid on. – Justin Cave Aug 29 '15 at 2:36
  • @JustinCave I'm looking for a way to fill a couple-month employment gap with the previous employer, giving back the on-the-job knowledge I gained there. Otherwise, my focus is on finding other full-time jobs and practicing new skills, so short-term contract work for other places doesn't make a lot of sense. BTW - I edited the post to hopefully have clearer wording. And my country is USA. – INCREMENTALIST Aug 29 '15 at 2:59
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    Just ask? I did before I left my last job. I was very close to my former employer -- it was a small startup, and I feel very attached to my project. So I just offered to assist them until they can hire someone who will replace me and I offer to train him/her when that happens. Given, I also knew I held a very important role/knowledge in the project that will most likely cause huge disruption if I hadn't offer. My former employer agree and in return, they actually offer me one extra month of salary to cover the extra "volunteering" work I will be doing in the unforeseeable future – CleverNode Aug 31 '15 at 17:54
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I'd say yes, you should do it. Here are some reasons why:

This will assure you of getting very positive references in your job hunt. Make it clear to them that you are just filling your spare time as you look for another job, and also that you want to help them out because you have friends in the company (assuming that you considered them friends).

It will help you keep your job skills sharp, which is very important. You'll interview better, and be able to jump into your new job faster.

There is absolutely no law that says in order to put something on your resume you have to get paid for it. Volunteer work is legitimate experience. Therefore you will legitimately be able to show yourself as not having a gap in your employment. This is a HUGE benefit. Several recruiters have told me that any gap bigger than a month will substantially hurt your chances of getting hired. And as long as you are actually doing good work for the company there is no ethical violation here.

Finally, if your unemployment drags on for longer than a month, working at a useful job instead of just waiting to be employed will greatly decrease the risk of depression. I have been a contractor for many years and I find that depression is a real killer. It affects your self confidence, and therefore your ability to interview well. Volunteer work is the perfect remedy for that.

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If I do receive the microwork, how could it be presented to future employers?

Present it as temp work or volunteer work, depending on the nature of the tasks and compensation themselves.

The term "microwork" is not a typical term (at least in the US) and would need to be explained to overcome any confusion or negative misconceptions.

You don't want to start a conversation with a future employer about what you actually mean by an obscure term for a rare work situation.

  • Thanks for the feedback, good idea. "Volunteering" is also a common way to describe work for such minor compensation. – INCREMENTALIST Aug 29 '15 at 2:03
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    Depending on how you form the agreement with the employer, there's not necessarily any reason you'd need to even give this much detail. Come back as a low paid or voluntary contractor, and why would you have to tell any new employer that the "low paid" section existed? You simply present it in your resume as two stints at the same company, with two different job titles and, if asked, explain that you left as a full time employee but then returned on a contract basis due to restructuring at the company. – Jon Story Sep 1 '15 at 12:28

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