Especially as a younger designer breaking into the industry, it's important to find connections to allow yourself a door to open. I the last week I have worked on a few small projects that directly link me to some the best ad/ creative firms in my city. This work allows me to actually communicate with company art directors on an equal footing. Even though you aren't receiving a paycheck at the end of the day, you may have earned yourself a powerful friend for your future endeavors.
I've also volunteered some of my time recently to assist in a logo design for an old climbing friend. Ryan Alonzo is an extremely talented photographer who is better known for his photography of Yosemite National Park. The new logo design reflects the dynamic nature of his outdoor photography. If you take a peak at his site, you'll understand why I came to this conclusion.