How to Get Ahead? Volunteer!

Image courtesy of NewAmericanLeadersProject via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

The world of work is competitive – that shouldn’t come as a surprise. In many professions or careers there will be many other people applying for the same position as you.

For recent graduates, the odds are against you in one crucial aspect: experience. You’re not likely to have as much as others going for the same job – you haven’t had much of an opportunity to gain experience. But one simple way to overcome that is to offer your time and volunteer.

 

Experience

Qualifications are only one part of what employers will look at when judging how suitable you are for a job. They want to see examples of you working as part of a team, problem solving and showing what you can do. With the time spent in a volunteering role, you will be able to say you’ve had hands-on experience.

It’s also more likely that you will get greater responsibility straight away as a volunteer than you would in a paid role, by assisting the management of a project for example. You can then start filling up that CV with useful skills and experience you wouldn’t otherwise have.

 

Initiative

Volunteering your time in an industry you want to work in shows you have initiative and passion. A prospective employer will appreciate that fact.

Those contacts that you make can often be crucial to you finding a job. You’ll have an advantage over other people by being known to your employer. This is by far the best way to impress and get your foot in the door.

It might also be that not much is being done on what you’re really passionate about.  Perhaps you’re keen to reduce food waste in your area and nothing is being done to tackle it. Real initiative is to do something about it yourself and get all the supermarkets in your area to sign up to a pledge to give left-over food to homeless shelters. You don’t necessarily need to be working for someone else to gain experience, in fact you’ll learn more with a project of your own – the possibilities are endless.

 

Discovery

When you volunteer you can try a variety of work. One week you’ll be asked to work on social media, the next you could be travelling out of the office meeting people and representing the organisation.

Look around for a project that interests you and see what existing charities or organisations are involved with it. Even if your volunteer placement doesn’t match your dream job exactly, you can still benefit from the skills you learn as many will be transferrable. You’re bound to discover something new in what you do, so that can only be worthwhile.

 

Many of our IELTS Awards winners have volunteered in and around university and have gone on to great things!

Besides the obvious benefit of feeling a warm glow from helping others, volunteering can offer concrete experience and chances to develop. Now, over to you!

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