It’s a tough time to be applying for a job in the UK. Countless suitably qualified candidates vie for every job, each struggling to outdo the other. One way to make a CV stand out among the others is by undertaking a voluntary placement. Here are five reasons why working for free is worth it.
Years of economic gloom have resulted in a highly competitive job market in the UK. There are currently 2.51 million unemployed people, which equates to 7.8% of the available workforce.
While having a degree used to almost guarantee a career, this is no longer the case. There was an average of 52 applications for every graduate position in 2012. This has resulted in the number of new UK graduates working in jobs like cleaning or bar work doubling to 10,000 in five years.
Rather than settling for anything they can find however, increasing numbers of graduates are looking for ways to outshine their competitors. One way to do this is by volunteering.
Many employers like to know that a candidate has some real experience in the relevant working environment and won’t call it quits when the reality of the role becomes apparent. Testing the water with a voluntary placement is the ideal way to see if your idea of a particular job is accurate.
For example, the life of a doctor is portrayed in countless films, TV programmes, and books as being almost constantly exciting and more than a little glamorous. Those who volunteer in a hospital or medical centre quickly observe that the role is far more subtle, and calls into play a range of other skills.
Many volunteers choose to carry out their placements abroad. As well as gaining valuable experience, placements abroad give the volunteer a broader perspective of the world. For example, someone who has carried out social work abroad will have experienced the problems faced by another culture. This gives the volunteer the ability to better identify the problems in their own sphere of influence.
A way in
Networking is invaluable to those seeking employment. Volunteers already working within an organisation are ideally placed to meet people who might be able to help them gain meaningful employment.
Aim to impress from day one and work hard to meet the right people and leave a lasting impression. Countless voluntary placements have turned into jobs after employers realise the value of a particular person.
If no job is currently available, they may recommend the volunteer to others in the industry. At the very least, hard-working volunteers can obtain permission to use their employer as a reference in future applications.
A well-educated candidate with a shining CV can fail during the interview process through lack of anything relevant to talk about. A voluntary experience provides a pool of practical information to draw on and impress interviewers with.
A placement in a different country with an organisation such as Projects Abroad can make for even more interesting anecdotes. Visit their website for more information.
Volunteering demonstrates dedication to a particular career. This is particularly valued by employers in the journalism, fashion and advertising industries. While working for free isn’t ideal, the experience can be worth more in the long run than a low-paid temp job.
Forum discussing the benefits of voluntary work for Cvs.
How volunteering can boost your CV.
The rise of volunteering on the résumé.