September marks a fresh start for all of us. Whether it is the beginning of a new school year, or a time to get back to business as summer winds down, the fall is a time to make a conscious effort to think about furthering career goals and exceeding expectations.
This summer, the media was flooded with articles citing that youth unemployment is off the charts – with more students and recent grads going longer without a job, a phenomenon which can seriously affect their chances of landing a job they actually want down the road.
In my experience, it’s very easy for students to focus on the here and now: “I’m a student, so I’m going to go to class and get my work done.” In this era however, getting a piece of paper isn’t enough. What are you doing, on-top of your studies, to supplement your resume? With steep competition for relatively few jobs , it is necessary that you differentiate yourself. Let’s start the conversation:
You: I’ve got decent grades, but my work experience is the same as all other students: a service job, research work for a prof and maybe a summer camp. How am I going to do differentiate myself from the other candidates?
Me: Simple. Get some experience in the area you want to work, providing you real-world experiences they (employers, grad school, etc) demand. This proves that you can walk the talk.
You: Okay, well I want to work in IT/Accounting/Global Development, but Google/E&Y/the United Nations won’t hire me without some solid experience first. It’s a catch-22!
Me: Yes, and no. Don’t go for the Hail Mary pass. Applying to work part-time at Google without any experience is not going to fly. SO, gain similar experiences elsewhere – VOLUNTEER!
You: I do volunteer. I’ve run bake sales and hosted parties as fundraisers for different charities and clubs, but the volunteer experiences I’ve had aren’t very well connected to my field.
Me: Then look elsewhere! There are lots of organizations on-campus and in your city (or online!) that are non-profits which provide real-world experience. There are also businesses who accept interns, OR, you can approach a business you are interested in working for and offer your time and effort for free to gain experience.
For example, our organization, Students Offering Support, provides university students the opportunity to gain relevant experience by not just running parties and speaker events, but by running a social business, helping thousands of students pass exams while raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for education projects in Latin America. SOS volunteers gain the experience that employers are demanding. We have more than 1500 volunteers on 30+ university campuses in Canada, with positions available at all of our campus SOS chapters as well as in our head office in downtown Toronto. If you’re interested in learning more, we have a few head office positions listed below and a link to find out about opportunities on your campus:
For more ways to get connected with relevant volunteer experiences, check out Getinvolved.ca. It’s a great way to connect to organizations looking for help, offering opportunities that provide great experiences that are related to your field. Don’t make preparing for your career a problem for future you, make it a priority for present you.
Greg Overholt (@goverholt) is the founder and executive director of the national student-led charitable social venture SOS: Students Offering Support (@SOSheadoffice). SOS is an organization where student volunteers teach their peers in exam-prep group review sessions, with the proceeds used to fund education projects in rural Latin America, built by volunteers on annual outreach trips. Since 2004, 25,000 students have been taught across 30 universities, raising more than $1,000,000 for development projects. Greg has spent the last four years helping 1600+ student leaders across Canada to ‘raise marks, raise money, and raise roofs’ on their campus.
Interested in finding a Volunteer Centre in your area? Check out this list of centres across the country!