It’s a classic ‘Catch 22’ – you need experience to get the job you want, but you need the job to get the experience! It can seem like you are in an impossible situation but there is an answer on how to get the skills you need to land a job. In fact, you don’t even necessarily need relevant experience to increase your chances of getting employed – all you need to do is volunteer.
‘Hold on,’ you might be thinking, ‘doesn’t that mean working for nothing?’ Surely, you’d have to be some sort of idiot to work for free, right?
Well, yes, and no – but before I explain, let’s have a quick look at what things employers want to see from people they are hiring (this will be relevant in just a moment).
What Employers Want
Research completed by British Gas has shown that more than half of the bosses they surveyed would actually turn down an applicant for lacking soft skills and personality. So, these skills are important, what has that got to do with volunteering?
The research then showed that half of the bosses admitted that they looked at volunteering experience as evidence of these make-or-break skills, while a full 94% said that they can get great results from employees who have volunteered.
But Aren’t Grades Important?
With nearly two-thirds of 16-25-year-olds thinking that businesses only care about academic grades when hiring, it may come as a surprise that 90% of employers want candidates to focus on soft skills as much as their grades. So yes, grades are important – but soft skills are just as important to employers.
Because of this solid focus on grades, 40% of young people have never volunteered, and almost 25% feel that volunteering won’t help them get a job.
But It’s Still Working For Nothing, Right?
If you are talking about money, then yes, volunteering doesn’t really offer any return (other than maybe your expenses covered). However, you are not getting ‘nothing’ for your time and effort. Firstly, you are showing that you are willing to work and gain some experience. This alone will make you stand out from the crowd, but you will also be gaining the much-sought-after soft skills. Knowing how to interact with others and basically ‘get along’ at work is as important as your actual practical knowledge or skills. Nobody wants to work with someone who is rude or uncooperative – showing you have developed soft skills and personality will help you to land the job.
What Can I Do?
When it comes to volunteering, it really depends on where you live, what you want to do, and how much time you have to spare. You could, for example opt to find something charitable to volunteer for. You could be helping out a cause close to your heart or doing some good in your local community at the same time as gaining experience and skills. Alternatively, you might want to try and volunteer or get an internship at a company that you one-day hope to work for – or in somewhere to get you direct experience for your future career. OK, so this won’t work if you want to be a brain surgeon (“what are you doing in here?”) – but could help you get going in a career in marketing, for example. Getting the soft skills experience, alongside some genuine practical knowledge, and maybe even impressing a few people and making some contacts is a win, win, win, win! Again, while the money may not be there just yet, the experience and networking could prove invaluable later. You can check for work experience opportunities and internships right here on NotGoingtoUni.
So, whether you choose to do something formal and organised like the Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award, or if you simply get some experience volunteering for a local charity once or twice a week – showing you have soft skills and a personality ready for the workplace will be as important as your grades! Of course, before you can show off your skills to get a job, you need to find one, but we can help with that too!