Perhaps more so than ever before, young South Africans are facing a real predicament over how best to get started with their careers. 2017 was a year of unresolved protest action in our universities, suggesting a number of school leavers would begin taking a gap year or filtering straight into the workplace. Yet matriculants lack the thing most frequently required of jobseekers: solid work experience.
Needing experience in order to get hired for a first job can be very frustrating. In many cases, matriculants are aware of their talents – be it coding, photography or top marks in accounting. But, they have yet to find an opportunity through which to demonstrate those talents.
Having a work portfolio is a foot in the door and a way to stand out from the crowd, especially when coming in at a junior position. So if nobody is hiring, perhaps it is time to get creative and get some experience with skills-based volunteering. While, fresh out of a 12-year sentence, the last thing on many matriculants’ minds is to work for no pay, volunteering presents a way to build this portfolio and demonstrate initiative.
So how can volunteering help you?
Employers are increasingly looking at volunteering as an important part of assessing character – networking and recruitment site LinkedIn has even added a dedicated section specifically for it. The trick is to give your time smartly and find opportunities that promote your own growth and developing marketable skills.
Of course, you are much more of an asset to a Cause when there’s a good match between your interests and their Needs. Whether it is running their social media feeds, writing fresh content for their websites, helping out with fundraising proposals, filming events, or tutoring students in the syllabus you have just completed – there is a huge range of meaningful activities that you can get involved in while building up that all important “real world experience”.
Recognising this potential pool of talent, we launched forgood in 2015. The platform has quickly become the largest volunteer matching portal in the country. On the freely available web and mobile site, accredited non-profit organisations post real-time Needs, categorised according to interest and location. Matriculants are able to respond to these, or post Offers of their own, which are distributed to organisations that might be looking for just that skill. Using skills-based volunteering to solve development challenges was a major driver behind the forgood project.
Before you despair over how to get your career started, consider that alongside a cash-generating stint at a local restaurant, career-minded teens can create real value for a charitable organisation while building a portfolio and collecting references.
Forgoods Four Pro Tips:
- Volunteer smartly, with intention – it’s about finding opportunities that present a learning and growing curve.
- See volunteering as an opportunity to chase your passions and challenge yourself – you are much more of an asset to an organisation if you take up a job you enjoy.
- Find something that is meaningful for both you and the Cause – the opportunities on forgood are endless.
- Feature your activities on your LinkedIn profile – the site reports that 41% of employers consider volunteer work to be as important as paid work. It also makes you a more interesting and diverse candidate.
A CV backed up with real examples of work done and a commitment to solving social challenges demonstrates one’s strengths, abilities, commitment and professionalism – and what boss doesn’t want that?