29 February 2016 | Grads Corner | Guest Author
Graduating is an exciting and enormous achievement. Something that is yearned for by students for many years. Naturally then, once you’ve completed this stage in your life, you’re more than ready to dry those sweat beads away and unapologetically alternate wild nights out with Netflix binges all through the summer. But one thing that can get in the way is a lack of preparation for becoming a graduate, by this I mean getting ready for the working world, namely by doing one major thing.
You know, that one word that pops up all through sixth form, college, university, you can’t escape it really: volunteering. This all important activity can be the difference between landing jobs and struggling to get interviews.The main ideas are to be involved in your community, help people and help yourself. It can be very useful for character development by helping you get to know yourself and your strengths and weaknesses and also in gaining transferable skills and invaluable contacts that will add value to your CV and prospects. It’s best to get started during your time at university but volunteering and work experience is something that will still be of great value after graduating.
Five ways that volunteering can help steer you into the direction of work:
1) Getting to know your strengths and weaknesses
Volunteering opportunities are endless and varied – from the personal such as working in mentoring and advice programmes, to the practical like getting your hands dirty in a DIY project – someone, somewhere is always in need of some kind of help. Because of the chances to get involved in so many different things you are able to explore where your skills really lie. For example, I have tutored children for the past three years both one-to-one in a quiet environment with the organisation Team Up, as well as elsewhere in a busier setting, and I have learnt I am able to build a rapport in both situations but am more confident when in smaller groups and in smaller teams. Through these work experiences I was able to learn about skills that I possess.
2) Gaining transferable skills
Charities are often in need of help with several different things, especially the smaller organisations. This means you can get stuck in wherever you’re needed whether it be sending emails and updating social media pages or holding events and hosting important visitors. You have a platform to potentially leave the charity having learnt many new skills. I volunteered with the Ministry of Stories a few years ago and had the opportunity to be involved as a writing mentor as well a shop assistant. Bam! Already I had experience in retail, customer service, handling finances as well has mentoring and youth work, skills I previously did not have at all, and all from just one voluntary placement.
3) Being involved in various activities
The most exciting thing about it all is the multitude of things you can do. On top of the tasks listed above, you may also have the opportunity to fundraise by for example doing sponsored fun runs, selling a service such as face painting or henna designing and even pitching your own creative ideas and bringing it into fruition yourself. This way you will have the badge of honour for organising a whole event and have yourself another achievement to add to your CV.
4) Making contacts and networking
A slightly more difficult but equally important point is making contacts. These are people you meet who can potentially offer advice, shadowing opportunities or simply recommend you to an employer once you have demonstrated what you can do. Contacts aren’t always CEO's and business owners, they can be fellow volunteers and friends you have made too.
Lastly, but by no means less important, social skills. This is essential whichever field you wish to work in. Volunteering is the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life from the people you are helping to the people you are working with. This is incredibly important as it is gives you a chance to make new friends, communicate with people you may not usually mix with and enjoy yourself. Volunteering is therefore an open gate to many opportunities. It will not necessarily guarantee instant job offers, but they can undeniably be a way to gain skills, make friends and be a massive help on the job searching journey.
English Language and Linguistics graduate Fadumo is University of Westminster alumni and is currently employed as a tutor at Explore Learning. Describing her current role as "a super busy, fun environment" to work in Fadumo holds education, social issues and research as her main areas of interest, and hopes to eventually work in social research. To get in touch with Fadumo, connect with her on LinkedIn.