In the context of an increasingly precarious and competitive graduate labour market, exposure to pre-graduation professional work experience is becoming an increasingly critical feature of graduate employability. Outside the creative professions the contours of this shift have received comparatively little empirical attention. This study provides evidence of increasing participation in unpaid work beyond the creative industries where it is well established as a common practice. This study examines the complex patterns of opportunities and challenges that are created for and by Australian urban planning students in gaining relevant exposure to professional work, with a particular emphasis on participation in unpaid work experience. Through the lens of employability and the voices of early career professionals, this study explores the complexity of decisions to engage in unpaid work and identifies the potential personal and professional implications of these decisions., Focussing on the ways decisions around unpaid work are shaped by a range of factors including labour market conditions and disciplinary norms the findings yield new knowledge of how unpaid work is practised and shaped as a principal means through which employment-related advantage and enhanced employability in education to employment transitions is sought by participants and the potential implications of this.