Advice For Career Opportunity

Hi Everyone,

I hope I’m not breaking any rules posting this. I apologize if I am, but I have a bit of a dilemma.

I was given an amazing opportunity to work (volunteer) at a conference for a well respected, national, graphic design company. I’m super excited about it…but…it’s 2,000 miles away. Airfare and hotel would be on me. I agreed to that when I submitted my application, but in my head, I kept interpreting it as a virtual event that I could help out from my home (or I was mixing it up with another conference).

Here’s my dilemma:


  1. I’m between jobs and money is tight.
  2. Airfare and hotel together would be expensive.
  3. I would get a free pass to the conference, but my airfare and hotel cost would cancel that out.


  1. I would be able to add a WELL KNOWN name in the graphic design field, to my resume. Even if I didn’t do any design work for them and it was only a few days, I would still be able to add that name to my resume.

  2. I would get a pass to the conference and have the opportunity to learn/improve my design skills, when I’m not helping out.

  3. It would be something I could add to my resume and show that I am doing relevant things in between trying to find a job.

Any advice would be appreciated. It would be an expensive opportunity, but would having a well-known name on my resume, even if I didn’t do any design work for them, help my job search? Also, would they then be a viable reference, if they allowed me to use them as one?

Just as an analogy - this opportunity is like a chef given a chance to work for Gordon Ramsey. Maybe they didn’t get to cook, but they still got to work for/with him.

Throughout my career, I’ve probably attended 20 or 30 design conferences that my employers paid for. I can honestly say they were all a waste of money. They were always fun, but I could have learned more by taking a day off and reading a book or listening to a podcast. As for acquaintances made, yeah, there were some, but since I rarely ever saw any of them again, they never amounted to anything beyond a LinkedIn connection.

Then again, I’ve never volunteered to participate in the behind-the-scenes stuff where I would have worked directly with other designers. That might be much more interesting and useful than just sitting in the audience and collecting bags full of promo stuff between sessions that I leave behind in the hotel room when checking out.

I have no idea who this person is, and there’s a pretty good chance I wouldn’t recognize the “well-known” designer/design firm name you’re referring to unless it’s on the level of Pentagram or Landor. I pay attention to work I’ve seen, but I never pay much attention to who designed it. That might be just me, though.

On the other hand, if it will get you a good reference (which isn’t necessarily guaranteed), it could be worth the expense. One thing’s for certain, there’s no real downside to any of this other than the money you’d spend. If you can afford it, I’d suggest doing it.

IMO, very limited benefit, if any. Say you put the name of this prominent company on your resume, then in some future design job interview you are asked about it. What’s your response? You don’t have any work to show as a result. If they ask for a contact at that company so they can verify your work, what would the contact say?

Personally I think I would pass - that sounds like an expensive trip and doubt you will garner much value from the conference. There are probably a lot better ways you could spend your time and money that would have a more significant impact on your employment opportunities.

That would be a big no from me. Too expensive and very little, if any reward.

Go if you want.

Get to network and stuff.

You’re a volunteer, if you don’t like it then don’t go back and you have a hotel and a holiday to look forward to.

Bring your portfolio and your resume and see where it goes.

Volunteering at a conference so you can put Big Name on resume? My first question would be “Why did that gig only last two days?” and second, “What work do you have to show for it.”
In other words, other than whatever you get out of the conference, you gots nothin. And quite honestly think about how much of that conference you actually get to attend if you are volunteering for behind the scenes for Mr. Big Name. That’s like my boss asking me if I want to go to SXSW. Oh, but you have to do work setting up the client’s area and maintaining and running their presentations. You might see what’s across the hall, but not the rest of the conference nor any of the other presentations because it all happens at the same time you are working.

I used to work big events for a private company. I was their designer for all their events. And I got invited to them.

It didn’t take me long to realise I was there to work and not mingle. I had to go and get photos of the staging, the table layouts, the menus, the posters, billboards, projection, video on the big screen.

If I didn’t go, I didn’t get the pics for the portfolio. So ended up ‘volunteering’ at these events.

Most of the time it was to run around with the camera and get photos of the big names there and the CEO shaking their hands and rubbing shoulders and then editing the photos that night to have up on the website the following morning.

Fun when I was young.
But older now, and if they want that sort of service there’s a pretty heavy fee involved.

Basicaly, this big wig company that you want to do a volunteer service with and get in with, they’ll just use you up - and move on to the next event.

What conference are you talking about? Is it HOW Design Live?

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I did ultimately decide not to go. Thanks to everyone’s input, I did see that I wouldn’t get a return investment on my money.