Paid work isn't everything

By Alexandra Kimbo on 03-08-2016
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Summer has arrived, and the hunt for jobs and internships is bound to be a stress-factor for most of us students, struggling to find paid work. However, there are many other ways of preparing yourself for your chosen career. Apart from gaining experience, there are countless other benefits tied up with finding unpaid work, and developing old, as well as learning new skills. Future employers will normally see unpaid work on CV’s as a huge plus. It is also important to be aware of the fact, that nowadays it is no longer enough to ‘just’ have paid work experience. Further, the more you volunteer and work for different employers, the quicker you will be able to build a network of potentially valuable contacts. Additionally, if you did well at your placement, there is even a chance that you will be offered a paid position after completion. Keep your eyes on the prize, take a deep breath, read on, and most importantly-remember that personal development can be fun.

1. Placements and Work Experience   

Yes, opportunities exist that don’t involve paid work or internships. One option is to seek out unpaid work placements. Apart from scouring job vacancy databases for listings, you can also apply directly to employers you would like to work for, on a speculative basis. It is important to search companies’ websites, as not all vacancies will be listed on careers pages.
Another, and slightly less obvious alternative you can take advantage of, is ‘shadowing’. If you are not familiar with the term, it really is what it sounds like. ‘Shadowing’ refers to observing the day to day, work-related activities carried out by a professional in your career sector of interest. This is extremely helpful, especially if you are still unsure about your career of choice. Unfortunately shadowing doesn’t provide you with hands-on experience, and is typically only of a short duration, but can nonetheless offer valuable insight. Again, make sure you contact employers directly, as these opportunities are not likely to be advertised.
Another possibility to gain experience, is of course volunteering. Voluntary positions are plentiful, and you will definitely be able to find something suitable. The opportunities are endless: You can volunteer for one-off activities, or get involved in long-term projects, and you can seek out vacancies related to your interests. Don’t forget to check your university careers pages for relevant listings!
If you are extremely good at a specific subject, why not consider tutoring? There are always students in need of some extra help, and it’s a great thing to have on your resume. Advertise your expertise around campus, and keep your eyes peeled for other local opportunities to tutor. Depending on your skills, you may even be able to earn money for your services!

2. Education and Training   

An excellent opportunity to gain experience is taking part in short-courses. There is guaranteed to be a suitable course for every career sector. You can choose from a variety of online courses, summer courses, and evening courses. Completing such courses will provide you with in-depth theoretical knowledge of the relevant profession, and will come in handy when applying for jobs later on.
If you’ve decided short coursers aren’t for you, then workshops constitute a great alternative. You can find sessions on virtually everything imaginable. Topics range from employability based workshops, as simple as LinkedIn workshops, to more industry specific events. If google isn’t helping you with your search for listings, contact your university and they will be happy to help.
Have you ever thought about learning a new language? Now is the time to do it! No matter what industry you are interested in, knowing additional languages is an enormous advantage. What better time could there be to embark on such an endeavour, than as a student? If your university doesn’t offer language programs, you’ll be able to find an abundance of online courses, and more than enough language schools offering various opportunities. 

3. Activities   

Taking part in sports clubs and societies is not only a personally enriching experience, but also makes you more employable. Even if you’re a member of the, say, Origami Society, you can use that activity to market yourself during job applications. All activities you participate in, will give you the chance to develop, and enhance transferable skills.
If you feel that you have the time, and skills, then the best thing you can do is to put yourself forward for a committee position. Ideally, run for a role that requires similar skills to your career of choice. For example, if you’re interested in a career in marketing or PR, you may want to consider positions such as Publicity and Communications Officer, or Social Secretary.

4. Events   

Other ways of enhancing your job prospects, are through attending as many career related events as possible. By ‘events’, I mean industry related conferences, exhibitions, seminars, concerts or festivals. Here’s where you can get more creative with how you gain relevant experience. If for example, you want work in the music or fashion industry, try to attend as many concerts or fashion events as possible. A popular option is to volunteer as a festival steward over the summer. Another example would be, if you’re interested in business, to attend open talks on various contemporary issues. Stay on the lookout for any form of industry related events, and take advantage of the opportunity to network.

5. Other Opportunities for Students

The list of alternative ways of career development is endless. It is extremely important to actively search for potential opportunities, and make sure you are familiar with ALL the services your university and careers centre offer! Another option you have is to pursue executive committee, or representative roles within your Students’ Union. Don’t forget about including freelance jobs, such as writing, in your search. Organisations are always on the look-out for students to contribute to their respective blogs. Given you enjoy writing; setting up your own blog will open many doors for you. You can write about any of your interests, or something related to your career of choice.

In sum, do pursue your hobbies and interests, as employers also want to see evidence of passionate, committed, well-rounded individuals. Finding ways to increase your employability chances as a student can be tiring, but it will definitely pay off in the end! Overall, persistence is key and you will find that more often than not, one opportunity leads to another. Happy searching!

Alexandra Kimbo (22)
Student: Media, Culture, and Society
Essex

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