Employers are throwing the term ‘employability’ around a lot, which basically means that a candidate is suitable for work in their sector and has valuable soft skills for work. Employability is harder to obtain than employers think, as you often need to get employed to earn it.
Outstanding grades, industry relevant internships and a combination of the two don’t seem to be enough to give that edge when approaching a potential employer anymore.
Being part of the Erasmus exchange and gaining experience abroad is a very good way to gain employer’s attention, but there’s still more you can do whilst abroad to help you stand out from the crowd. Volunteering is becoming ever more popular and important within sectors, and there’s a big industry of it in many European countries, including the UK. Furthermore, volunteer work also gives you a great chance to prolong your stay abroad after an Erasmus exchange. In case you’re looking for housing options during a volunteer program, take a look at Erasmate’s browse housing list for current housing offers.
There are many preconceptions about volunteering. Some of them being that a volunteer would be bored or that there won’t a connection to your chosen industry. Having industry specific experience is good, but employers also want to see examples of dedication and passion.
If you can’t find industry related volunteer work, then look out for opportunities with causes that you are passionate about. If you wish to raise money for a cause funding research for a disease a family member has, then this not only shows dedication to your family, but also involves organization, budgeting and planning skills. Remember not to volunteer because you’ve heard it’s a good idea to do it, but because you want to, as employers will see right through you if you’re not passionate about the cause.
Regarding the first point of volunteering being boring, this won’t be the case if you volunteer for a cause that’s important to you, and there’s a growing trend of volunteering at summer and adventure camps in the UK.
Summer camps are a common sector in America, but are still growing within the UK meaning that volunteer work in such a different sector will help you stand out when looking for work in the UK or back home.
Volunteer work at a children’s camp is especially useful for those studying to become teachers, as you can gain valuable experience of interacting with the children in a very different environment compared to the classroom while still having to distribute the same authority and discipline. The challenge is creating the right balance between comradery and discipline. Conquering this challenge will impress potential employers, as many experienced teachers still struggle with this balance.
Similarly, if you’re planning to become a trainer or instructor within the sports or activities offered at summer camps, then you can gain valuable experience by volunteering as well as stand out with knowledge of more unusual sports such as weaselling (which is climbing, sliding and squeezing through tunnels and rocky obstacles to reach the top of a hillside).
Just like having hobbies is a credit to your versatility, so too is volunteer work in a different environment than what is expected. If you can show volunteering experience in a sector or industry which can stop the employer to take a closer look at your CV, then you have better chances of being noticed at the early stages of recruitment.
Find out more about UK summer camps. This article was written by Sarah Oxley on behalf of Doit4real, a charitable organization who provide adventure and summer camps for children aged 10-16.