Whether you are a fresh graduate or an experienced professional, the standard advice is to never work for free. You can volunteer your time or work as an intern only when it is for greater public good, or it is a project that will you personal acclaim and enhanced visibility in your niche area.
Basically, you ask the employer (or yourself, in case of personal initiatives) exactly what 'exposure'does it all all get you? And can they give all that in writing? Will they link to your website from their company website? Will the boss put out the word about you using their social media accounts? (check if they are really active) Will they pit your name in the credits when they publish results of the important survey? This is what we mean when we say 'quantify the exposure'.
Otherwise, you are much better off showing off the stuff what you can do (e.g. Photoshop mockups for mobile apps on Behance.com) or taking a course involving lots of hands-on learning.
Work for free if you think it helps build your professional network. However, a company is not person.
Work for free if it gets you access to the top people in your niche - e.g. in the TV media or movie business. What you do with that access is another matter.
Work for free, for a small period of time, if it lets you hone a new skill. People have learned speed typing by typing up documents for the neighborhood.
Word for free if it gets you a fancy professional title. How about 'Director of operations?'. Never mind that the it is your own startup.
Sometimes, we work for free because we just love the job. These situations are very rare. Most of the tasks we love are inside large corporations populated by people who get ahead on free/cheap sweat of others.
Thank you for reading.
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