An unpaid apprentice is not a full-time employee … but some people have a hard time understanding that.

You’ve probably read my previous blog about my experience being a digital marketing apprentice. Well, shortly after writing that blog post my apprenticeship took a sharp downturn.

I should’ve paid attention to the signs earlier. Perhaps it was my extreme excitement to finally begin my “career” in marketing that prevented me from seeing that something wasn’t exactly right.

I was only supposed to be working 10 hours a week. However, a few days into my apprenticeship, my mentor was already expecting me to have designed, created copy for, and SEO-optimized Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn posts for three of his client accounts for an entire month. He owned a marketing agency and served many different clients. This in itself was a bit unusual. The Mentorship program that I was in only really had small businesses that they would match apprentices with. That was one red flag.

But the first red flag happened during the interview process itself. Upon asking whether they had mentored apprentices before, the owner and founder of the agency flippantly responded, “No, this is our first time. We heard about this through somebody else and thought it sounded good.” Major red flag.

At that point, I should’ve run. Later on, I figured out that the only thing that sounded good to them was the opportunity to get free labor. However, an unpaid apprenticeship is an exchange. The organization that connected us stipulated that the apprentice would work 10 hours maximum each week and that the mentor would provide training and guidance for a minimum of 2 hours each week. Sadly, nothing of the sort happened during my apprenticeship.

The first week, I received a very heavy workload. Being new, I just assumed that this week would be a little bit harder than most, but that in the future the tasks I would receive would be more reflective of the 10 hours a week agreed to. So I spent a lot of extra time getting all the assignments completed. It was exciting to be working with real-life clients and designing their social media marketing campaigns. I was handling three client accounts all on my own, which was definitely a bit strange to me. I also was receiving very little training besides the Youtube videos my mentor would instruct me to watch. That red flag was noticeable to me. However, I chose to push my concerns aside.

The third week into my apprenticeship program, my mentor informed me that I would now be handling a grand total of five client accounts. I was shocked! Since everyone in the company used the same work assignment application, I knew his full-time employees had a caseload of 4-5 clients. I was totally flabbergasted that he was demanding that I manage that many of his clients as a 10-hour-a-week apprentice. I could no longer ignore the red flags.

I informed the matching organization that I would no longer be able to continue in this apprenticeship. To their credit, the organization was helpful in getting the apprenticeship canceled in a timely manner.

I guess the main thing I’ve gotten out of this experience is to not ignore the red flags and not be afraid to stand up for myself.

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