Getting your ‘dream job’ may be a life goal for many of you. For those of you that are really dedicated to making the dream become a reality I’d be willing to bet anything that you have spent hours researching, studying and maybe even planning your next steps.
Unfortunately, as you may have discovered by now, dream jobs don’t just come knocking on your door! Whatever that job is, it’s likely to be secured following extensive hard work – including years of studying, career progression, exemplary behaviour, investment of time and resources and much much more!
In this entry I endeavour to show how the role of volunteering can expedite your journey to getting that dream job. Just remember – very rarely do things come to those who don’t try.
Most people have a ‘dream job’ somewhere in their minds. However, a vast percentage of the people I speak to haven’t spent the time deciphering exactly what it is. My first recommendation to you, if you want to find out what your dream job might be, is to go on a small journey of self discovery.
I have already written about how I personally benefited from gaining work experience and that article speaks a little about my journey of self discovery. In a nutshell – dream big, don’t be afraid to ask questions and whatever you do, don’t give up searching!
Gaining specific work experience is immensely important for anyone seeking their dream job. Work experience is a very specific way of enhancing your CV, getting yourself known by what could be your future employers and for finding out first hand what a job is really like.
Volunteering on the other hand, while similar to work experience, is usually much more generic, lasts longer and comes with its own range of benefits.
Continue reading to find out how volunteering can help you land that dream job.
What does volunteering mean to you?
Volunteering as a concept is commonly misunderstood and thus the vast benefits it can afford are often overlooked.
Volunteering doesn’t just have to be planting bulbs on weekends, picking litter from the kids skate park or helping out at a youth club in the evenings (although those are all excellent things to do!)
Volunteering is a way to offer up your services and time to an organisation or cause which will mutually benefit the both of you. The organisation will benefit from the free labour, experience, eagerness and youthfulness and you can benefit from the job experience, the opportunity to ask questions, the ability to work your own hours and often to claim back expenses!
Volunteering, due to the nature of working for free, means you are commonly not bound by set hours and therefore have a much greater flexibility and freedom than regular employees.
What sort of volunteering should you do?
The ‘type’ of volunteering you do will depend entirely upon your motives. If you are seeking to obtain your dream job and are using volunteering as a means to this goal, then you will need to be selective!
While volunteering will almost always be regarded highly by an employer when viewing your CV, getting very specific self-made volunteering opportunities is worth much more!
You can volunteer for pretty much anything! So long as you are prepared to work for free, get stuck in, be trustworthy and reliable then realistically the only limitation to which opportunities you go for is you!
Generalised volunteering will demonstrate your willingness to work, your mature outlook on the world of work and will infer a whole host of excellent character traits about you as a person.
Specific volunteering (eg. gaining experience in the same job sector as your dream job) will incur all of the above benefits along with showing that you have the ability to plan and execute your plans to achieve a future goal. This indicates to an employer that you are dedicated to the cause and are a cut above the rest, who are merely sending out application after application without exploring other means.
How to secure a volunteering placement
This will differ for every single placement but follows pretty much the same procedure as outlined in my work experience article under the ‘Daring to Dream’ subheading.
There is usually less competition for places, especially if it is self-made placement. You will need to be able to demonstrate that you can be trusted. Don’t forget, you are in someone else’s workplace or business and are therefore responsible for upholding their company image, and you are accountable to everyone!
Getting voluntary placements isn’t too difficult so long as you know what you are doing. Usually, a polite email to the HR department (or if a small company, the manager) will be enough to get the ball rolling. Be prepared to explain your reasoning including future job aspirations and what exactly you can offer/ want to learn while volunteering.
I volunteered in Sheffield with the City Council working with adults who had a range of learning difficulties. I spent four months there unpaid (received expenses and food allowance) and left with a fantastic review and the opportunity to return at a later date. It benefited me on an individual basis as I wanted greater experience in public sector workplaces, working with adults with communication issues and something to keep me busy for three months until my next job was due to start!
I got myself in there through asking a friend who worked there which people were best to contact – and one email and one coffee later and I was signing the risk assessment forms and getting to work. Simples.
How to use volunteering to get that dream job
Hopefully by now you understand a little more about the benefits that can be had from volunteering.
To get your dream job you will need to start at the bottom of the career ladder and work your way up, right? Not necessarily.
I once applied for a job and because I had previous related work experience (which could have been volunteering experience) I was offered the opportunity of a team leader role, which was one place higher on the ladder! No longer was I competing against people for the advertised role – I was being offered a promotion before I had even begun.
Another time I went for an interview with an alarm and security company for the role of office assistant. Due to my previous work experience I was told to forget the office role and to consider a 3 year paid apprenticeship placement progressing from £24,000 to £34,000 in three years with work in London and across the nation. Once again, my work experience and volunteering came to my aid.
Plus, once I had one volunteering role under my belt, it was much easier to secure future placements too, especially as I carried with me written references and even certificates.
The journey to getting that dream job might not require any volunteering and if not, well played! But considering the number of applicants for each job, those people putting in that little bit extra will be rewarded exponentially, I promise you!
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be realistic about what you can offer. Work hard at becoming (or learn to be) trustworthy, reliable, self controlled, disciplined, professional and mature. Then take a leap of faith and send that email or pick up the phone. The worst that can happen is that they can say no!
Good luck and feel free to comment below or contact me in the forums!
Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don’t turn up at all. Sam Ewing