Why every grad needs to do skilled volunteering before they graduate

Written by: Teigan Margetts, Graduate Program Manager

The Useless Advice Epidemic 

I’ve been in this game long enough to tell you that there is more competition than ever for graduate jobs. As I’ve previously discussed, we are in the midst of a graduate employability crisis whereby even the best, most intelligent and best prepared graduates are struggling to find work.

What irks me the most, however, is not only that many outstanding graduates will fail to find their dream job, or any job at all, but instead, all the vague and unhelpful advice that gets bandied around in an attempt to assist said graduates find that job.

Adapt what is useful

A prime example of such advice is ‘ensure you stand out.’ I mean, what does that even mean? Stand out compared to whom? What is standing out? Isn’t getting a graduate job all about fluffing your way through a myriad of complexities and litany of assessment steps to be spat out and told YES, you actually fit the mould, we’ll take you?

So I thought I’d translate this otherwise useless piece of advice into one practical one for all graduates. What does that like, even mean?

To break it down for you; standing out means being better than everyone else. And how can you be better than everyone else? You can do so by getting some professional work experience. Now I see what you’re thinking: you want to say to me ‘But Teigan, it’s so hard to get professional work experience?’

Well, turns out it isn’t. In fact, with what I’m suggesting, not only can you gain professional work experience, but also garner a numerous other benefits that will greatly assist your employability.

Why Milaana is the best thing that will ever happen to you

So how do you do it? Through skilled volunteering with Milaana.   Here’s why taking a skilled volunteering project through Milaana will be just about the best thing you will ever do for your employability:

1. Say hello to attainable professional work experience

The one thing that is currently more challenging than obtaining a graduate job is obtaining a (paid) internship/or vacationer gig, owing to the fact that less organisations have these type of programs and when they do, they recruit less students. Therefore, you are far better concentrating your efforts on obtaining a skilled volunteering position.

Not only will you have a better chance of obtaining a skilled volunteering position, you will also have a wealth of choice available when selecting one. Milaana offers projects in areas which are notoriously difficult to find internships, for example, film and sports management, as well as offering a swathe of positions in the rapidly growing areas of digital marketing and web development. Graduates with these types of technical skills are sure to be in high demand upon graduation.

2. Having a passion…why this matters

To be honest, my eyes have often glazed over when graduates start talking about their experiences with teamwork or conflict (I’ve heard the uni project example in excess of 1000 times), however, my ears really prick up when graduates talk about their passions.

It is often the thing that I most remember from my discussions with students as it is something that is unique to them and if they can show they care so much about something…I have every reason to believe they will be able to harness that energy and passion in a graduate role.

What better way, then, to combine a passion with work experience than with skilled volunteering. Not only will you gain work experience, but you will be able to assist a community organisation that you are passionate about with a valuable project that will most likely mean way more to them than it would have for any large corporate organisation.

Passion is energy

3. Structured activities = better career planning

You know, I really envy all those doctors/lawyers/other people out there that knew what they wanted to be from age 5. As a person who quit three different grad jobs because the respective professions ‘weren’t a fit’, I really wish that I’d had a better idea of what I wanted to do, and tested it out via internships before I graduated.

Skilled volunteering projects provide the perfect opportunity to ‘try before you buy.’ Do 2. Do 3. Resolve to do one every year for your entire degree. Trust me, the more different professions you try, the more likely you’ll find your niche sooner, and be able to pursue it with vision and purpose. In addition to this, given the intense competition for graduate jobs, if you have a plethora of different, complimentary experiences you will be far more hireable.

4. It’s all about leadership

Just in case you are about to make this mistake in an interview, let me tell you something now: leadership is not about telling (or coercing, or forcing, or tricking) people into doing what you want. Leadership in the modern era is far more transformational in its approach. What this means is it is about being visionary and thinking outside the box, and using empathy and understanding to help motivate others to achieve goals.

Volunteering helps you to obtain all of these qualities. Working for a community organisation helps you to develop empathy and understanding for the cause you are supporting. Further, it exposes you to situations and problems that you will most likely have never encountered before, ensuring you develop your ability to think outside the box and problem solve.

5. Networking, networking, networking

I can’t stress enough that even if you have the best application and credentials ever, you may still be beaten to a job by someone that knows someone in that organisation. This definitely happens at graduate level, and is a function of the fact that most recruiters believe that good people (ie. People at their organisation) will know good people.

Skilled volunteering, then, provides you with the perfect opportunity to network. Who is to say that the group of people you work with won’t know someone that knows someone who makes the hiring decisions at whatever graduate job you want to go for? If they do, I’m sure they will be more than happy to introduce you, given you have donated your time and ideas to their business. Heck, you could even end up working for a startup that is run by a former big name CEO, just like these ones.

Given that the graduate job market is looking worse than ever, I cannot implore you enough to explore the projects available through Milaana and ensure you get the edge you will so desperately need when you graduate.

Teigan Margetts is a Graduate Program Manager at a large, multinational organisation. She is also a freelance writer, and gives out advice just like this for free via her blog. Connect with her on LinkedIn for honest, witty and invaluable advice on all things graduate and job related.

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