Volunteering as a student during uni provides a range of benefits to students and the community at large. This Student Volunteering Week, discover how you can learn new skills and help your local community.
One of the things every postgrad student will tell you is that the problem with going to uni is the paradox of being a graduate with experience.
"I'm applying for a 'graduate' job. How am I supposed to have 2 years of industry experience? I've been busy getting my degree!"
- Hannah J
This is a problem that has become an epidemic in the applications of graduate jobs. As the value of a degree continues to weaken, many employers demand more from their new hires. They use the word "graduate" as a lure, a deterrent and an excuse. They want someone with graduate knowledge. In specialist fields, this is often the first and biggest barrier to entry. You can't be a lawyer without having a Law degree, after all.
Some employers also use the term "graduate" as an excuse to pay employees less. Today, so many people have degrees, the term "graduate" is just a trainee role in all but name. This means that there is going to be a ceiling on how much pay you can expect; not to mention how much of the knowledge you've spent four years accumulating you'll actually use.
So what can you do to demonstrate your skills and stand out from the crowd?
Do some volunteering.
First things first: shake off the idea that the industry you want to work in doesn't accept volunteers. There are two reasons for this:
1. Charities work in a wide variety of sectors
2. You can get valuable experience from volunteering, regardless of what you're studying
There are over 100,000 charities and not-for-profits in the "third sector" of the UK. They cover dozens of sectors, including social services, education, research, law and more. Within every charity, you'll find that there's more to it than standing outside with a clipboard.
Charities, like businesses, are organisations. That means they have HR departments, IT support teams, project managers, marketing teams and even retail divisions.
This means that volunteering offers the potential for you to learn a wide range of skills.
Whether they're related to your studies or not, volunteering can teach you a variety of skills that may prove useful down the line. Whether it's practical skills or "soft" skills like people management, volunteering gives students a chance to supplement their learning with new skills.
Learning new skills is a goal that many students share. Institute of Volunteering Research (IVR) studies show that developing skills (88%) and gaining work experience (83%) are important motivating factors for students engaging in volunteering.
44% of students don't know what to do after graduation. Thousands of students jump from college to uni and come out the other side no better informed about what they want to do. There's so much world out there, how could you possibly figure out what you want to do?
The best answer is to get some experience. That's one of the biggest benefits of volunteering: it gets you out of your comfort zone, both physically and mentally. Broadening your horizons through volunteering work will help you narrow in on your career path.
It also provides some serious meat on your CV. Volunteering show employers that you have some worldly experience in a workplace environment. It also gives you more to talk about than your education, when you get to the interview stage.
Meeting new people doesn't just open doors to new social occasions. It can also open up doors for future work opportunities.
Engaging in the community through volunteering allows you to make contact with people from all walks of life, any one of whom could be an opportunity for something positive in your future. 51% of recent graduates under 30 who are in paid work stated that volunteering helped them to secure employment.
Engaging the community by volunteering can also help you break out of the "student bubble" and discover more to your city than just bars, clubs and university.
Student Volunteering Week is an event run by the Student Volunteering Network. Lead by a voluntary committee of staff from various institutions around the UK, the SVN is celebrating its 18th year of Student Volunteering Week.
The 2019 event runs from 11th - 17th February. In 2018 students and staff from over 60 Higher and Further Education Institutions led over 300 events. Getting involved offers a great chance for students to develop their skills while forming key social action partnerships in local communities.
Visit their website for more information about how you can get involved.