I know, I know, sometimes it feels like the world is nagging on at you to 'get more experience' and that working for free is an absolute must in the current world of graduate job hunting. I also understand how hard it can be to find the time to volunteer whilst you're at university, especially if you're balancing a part time job in order to scrape together enough money for the posh tins of beans and not home brand. But hear me out! Volunteering, no matter how many times you've heard it, is essential to improving your employability and I don't just mean the type of work where you have to hop on a 36 hour plane ride to clamber through jungles and build schools - not everybody can do that!
1. It doesn't have to take up all your time!I know that as a student, time management is unbelievably tricky and it is more than acceptable to build in hours to watch telly or procrasti-clean but volunteering doesn't have to take up a whole day out of your week. Just a few hours out of your day will not only make you feel like you've achieved more than alphabetise your DVD collection but will also boost your CV.
2. Volunteering is easy to find (honestly!)
If you've read my last piece 10 things I hate about you... you'll have noticed that the best way to enhance your volunteering opportunities is by getting involved with on campus societies. There isn't a week that goes by without somebody dressed in a ridiculous costume or selling cakes around campus and whilst it may sound trivial, that is still charity work! Student societies like RAG (Raise and Give) often work directly with local groups - so if you join a society, you can take part in volunteering without ever having to rearrange your TV schedule!
RAG Societies in action.
3. Don't be left behind!If you have got previous work experience, then don't think volunteering is something you shouldn't be doing - use your skills! Maybe you're a good footballer, or you enjoy knitting or maybe you've worked behind a till before, these are all things a charity would love to utilise. However, It's okay if you haven't had a job before, most of you are still pretty young, but don't waste all that money on your degree without getting something more than a framed piece of paper out of it! A little while ago I was reading a piece written by a graduate who had never had a job so when they left, it was incredibly difficult to find anyone who would give them a chance. Volunteering is a way to have something more than "in year 10 I worked in my Mum's office" on your CV and the more you can add, the less likely you are to be left behind by all those super pro-active students! Go get 'em!
4. It really can be all fun and games!Youth clubs, young people's organisations even elderly care homes (to name just a few) can be great places to look for volunteering roles. I've had friends who were such a great success at it, they now have paid positions! Volunteering doesn't have to be boring and it can offer you a real chance to have fun and make friends. So tell me, why are you avoiding doing something which is fun..?
Old school fundraising
5. The cheesy reason...It really is rewarding. Whether it is working in a school, helping in a charity shop, or being the shadow in an office you are able to gain whole new insights. You're prepped for the big bad world of grown-up employment, your CV now has more than GCSE's on it, you look pro-active and independent and you got to make a difference. It's corny but it's true, volunteering can provide you with a whole new outlook and set of skills which academia cannot.
So what on earth are you waiting for?! Get emailing, calling, and searching now to offer a few hours a week and make sure your CV is valuable in the hunt for graduate jobs!