I have been applying for academic jobs which are admittedly a bit out of my league. I have a Bachelor degree from an elite (ie world top ~3, depending on ranking) university. My course had an interruption in it, which I spent working for an academic institution (and I got paid).
I have been finding academic jobs in the past by emailing professors if I can work for them. Most of the time the answer was no, but there were always at least 1 person who would give me a job in the past, when I was looking for one. I think this is probably because I was lucky enough to be enrolled to an elite university (yes, I think that is at least 90% luck, but that's another topic).
I know that people who work for research instituions have usually higher qualifications than only a Bachelor. However, when I was given a job, I was always paid.
Recently, I have encountered a new situation: the people I applied to were keen on giving me tasks, and they seemed to think I am qualified to do it, but they didn't think they need to pay me. They thought they are mentoring me maybe, or something like that. Ie their idea of my participation was that I work under their guidance: I get their guidance & the possibility to contribute to research papers, they get code I write.
While this would be perfectly ok for me if I was rich, I cannot afford to have a job which does not pay. (I don't mind if it pays badly, I am not looking for an extravagant lifestyle, but I do want to keep a roof over my head.)
Previously, I thought that this goes without saying: if you don't think I can do a good enough job for me to be paid, then just don't hire me. If I do work, I get paid.
Is this approach too arrogant? Is it normal for slightly underqualified people to be working for academic insitutions without being paid?