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When you finish education and you start looking for a ‘real job’, you will often be faced with a rather frustrating challenge: the lack of experience.
You’ve got a degree and the letters after your name to show that you know what you’re doing, but when you send off your CV to potential employers, all you get back is an apologetic message stating that you don’t have the ‘relevant experience’.
In other cases, you might never get the opportunity to apply in the first place: the job listings will very often state experience as a requirement of the work.
But the problem of course is getting that experience in the first place. How can you get experience if no one will hire you? And how can you get hired if you have no experience? Talk about a catch 22!
Why You Need Work Experience
To be fair on employers though, they are not wrong in requiring experience. As an employer, seeing a candidate who has good qualifications and education is of course very appealing and will greatly increase the likelihood of that person getting the job.
But nevertheless, education is just… academic. This is theory as opposed to actually experience and as a result, the employee is going to be a little lost when they dive in at the deep end. Students fresh out of university will often be nervous when put on the phone, they’ll often struggle to interact and fit into the work environment and they won’t know how to present themselves to clients.
It’s a little bit like driving: someone who has just passed their driving test is very often actually quite dangerous on the roads until they get the necessary experience from going out and driving. That’s when you really ‘learn’ to drive. Until then you just know how to drive – there’s a difference.
Even if you can find a workplace that will take you without experience then, you’ll often find that life would have been much simpler if you had have gotten some first. You might well find yourself out of your depths and a little lost otherwise and this can be quite an unpleasant experience when you’re starting out.
Why You Should Volunteer
With all that in mind then, it’s a very good idea to volunteer over the summer in order to get work experience while you learn. At this point, you can start to immediately put what you learn into practice and to collect experience as well as your qualifications.
Then, when you come out of work, you’ll have the experience alongside your certificate in order to apply for jobs. What’s more, you’ll have the confidence and the body language that comes from having spent time in a professional environment. This will come across in your interview and you’ll have a massive advantage over candidates who don’t have the experience.
Actually though, you might even find that your summer volunteering proves even more valuable than that! In a great many cases, summer volunteering positions lead to full-time job offers. This is simply convenient for the companies as they will likely have gotten to know and like you, making it easy for them to offer you the job instead of opening up interviews to outside candidates.
How to Find Summer Volunteering Positions
So how do you go about finding these opportunities and getting the experience you need?
One option is to simply look at employers you’d like to work with and to send in your CV with a covering letter saying that you’d love to shadow someone and get some work experience.
In many cases your message will be ignored but if you’re lucky, you may be able to land work with some big companies that otherwise wouldn’t give you the time of day. From their perspective, they’re getting free labor – so everyone wins!
Reaching out to companies cold like this is hard work and won’t always work – but it can yield results. I actually did exactly this when I was 19 and managed to land a position working for a prestigious magazine with a large readership. I actually worked there for a full year and it gave me a massive advantage looking for work afterward.
Another option is to look out for listings of volunteer work. Some colleges, universities and courses can also put you in touch with companies they know are looking for volunteers.
On top of all that, you can also your own contacts. Ask family members, friends and fellow students if they know of any opportunities. This is often another good way to get access to the kinds of jobs that otherwise wouldn’t be open to you.
Finally, look at volunteering at charitable organizations. This might mean working in a shop, or it might be handling marketing and promotional activities for a large organization – either of which can serve as a great experience that may be relevant to the positions you’re looking for.