Darren Rovell is Right

Oh God, I have to defend Darren Rovell in today’s Internet Controversy of the Day. I’d normally hate myself for that, but Rovell is right on the money.

If you missed it, Rovell pissed off a bunch of people because he tweeted this:

Then he doubled down on it after some Twitter blowback.

Look, this is honestly good advice. I know people have their moments of Rovell hatred, but doing free work when trying to get started can sometimes be necessary to generate a big break.

I did this for the first few years of my career, acting on my dad’s advice that it’s the equivalent of “investing in yourself.” While employed as a high schools writer at local newspapers, I did things like cover the Super Bowl, ACC basketball games and NASCAR races on my own time and money in order to get clips.

I would tell the editors, “Don’t worry, I’ll do this on my time off and you don’t have to pay for my travel. As long as you use my stories in the paper, I’m good.” Some resisted, but ultimately let me go; they were getting free content from notable events, after all.

That actually paid off for me in a major way. In 2006, I took vacation time from the Inland Valley Daily Bullletin and flew from Southern California to Indianapolis to cover the Brickyard 400. I was chasing a dream of being a NASCAR writer, and this was my first opportunity to really hang out with some people I really looked up to (Jenna Fryer, Bob Pockrass, Nate Ryan, Marty Smith, etc.).

That weekend in Indy helped me build relationships that proved to be invaluable. Six months later, when there was an opening at NASCAR Scene, Jenna sent me an email about it and encouraged me to apply.

I did apply and ultimately got the job. I’ve been on the NASCAR beat ever since and credit spending my own money to make connections in Indy that weekend as a big part of it.

I’m not saying professionals should work for free. But if you’re someone trying to break into an industry and you can swing it, then consider investing in yourself.

5 Replies to “Darren Rovell is Right”

  1. Breaking into a business and forming networks is an investment in your future and more people should do it. No worse than being an intern.

  2. There is a difference between doing work for free on your own and being an unpaid intern. The first one is OK. The second one, not.

    Greedy corporations getting interns to work for free is wrong. By doing it people are allowing the corporations to continue this practice.

    1. Sorry Ron, but you are incorrect. Neither of the scenarios you mentioned are actually wrong/unethical. In a free society, everyone makes voluntary contracts and exchanges. An unpaid intern would not accept the internship unless he/she determined that the value of that experience was worth the time an work involved. These companies are not slave masters, because no one is being coerced to work against their will. And as long as people are willing to start out working for free while they are effectively being paid in experience, it is ethical for companies to offer such arrangements.

  3. Texas Motor Speedway Social Media guy here. Worked two jobs so I could intern for for Texas Motor Speedway’s marketing department for free. Worth it for sure, probably wouldn’t have gotten my job otherwise.

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