The career opportunities I got the most personal value from were all unpaid.
I used to follow around a fashion photographer I really admired, and she let me draw her models on set as she did her thing. From there, I was exposed to “real world” dynamics of networking, and was able to bring awareness of my work to people who would then become my clients down the line.
I then took my hobby to a local fashion show where I found one of my favourite fashion designers to date, Zoba Martin, and invested my time to work with her and learn the craft of dressmaking for about a year.
Not only was I able to observe behind the scenes how something I was heavily interested in was made, but I was also able to spend time with somebody I believe in, who might not have been able to compensate for my hourly labour otherwise.
Afterwards, I worked for free at a boutique marketing business for a number of months. This allowed me to see what’s possible and realistic with a small number of hands on the table.
I’m beyond grateful for these experiences. All of which I would not have had, had I only searched for paid opportunities where my time would be traded for money.