Being a student during COVID-19 has been difficult. Remote learning as well as lack of social interaction has affected many students’ ability to learn and gain university classroom experience.
Having been in my second year of university and studying on the BA Marketing Sandwich course, I was pushed by my tutors and university employment team to find either a year’s work placement or a summer internship. With placement opportunities decreasing and many graduate job opportunities falling through I believed that gaining real work experience during a pandemic was going to be almost impossible.
Student Volunteering Opportunities
After applying to multiple summer internships and receiving minimal to no feedback I felt defeated. Every application process I went through gave me the same feedback, “we have hired a candidate with more experience.”
I then began to think about how I could gain relevant industry experience in such a competitive market. That’s when I was introduced to the idea of volunteering. Gaining work experience and helping a good cause, how could I complain?
I stumbled upon CharityJobs. CharityJobs is the UK’s largest and most specialised job board carrying non-profit, NGO, social enterprise, CIC and voluntary jobs.
I scrolled through multiple job postings and used the filtering software to find jobs that only needed up to 5 hours of my time a week. After applying to multiple opportunities, an interview was arranged with Lybotics. Lybotics is a non-profit organisation that focuses on supporting the children of Libya within STEM education. This is something that I ended up being very passionate about.
What Did I Learn From Volunteering?
Working with Lybotics allowed me to gain first-hand marketing experience through creating social media posts and supporting marketing executives. Spending 6 months volunteering with the company was very beneficial to me in building business connections on LinkedIn. This assisted me in gaining a connection list of over 400 people!
It also gave me the opportunity to put that valuable experience on my CV and cover letters during applications.
Even after a month of being a marketing volunteer, I reaped the benefits. Prior to volunteering, I wasn’t getting to the interview stages of applications due to my lack of experience. However, I started to see some real progress and was being invited to multiple interviews with large companies. This allowed me to showcase the skills I had learnt such as my expertise on Canva as well as my SEO (search engine optimisation) knowledge that I had developed through volunteering.
Advice On Gaining Work Experience
My advice to anyone starting out in their industry or even looking for work experience is, consider volunteering. It’s a stepping stone that a lot of other students and candidates may avoid however it’s an experience that will make you stand out in a competitive market. There are opportunities that only expect two hours of commitment a week, that’s nothing! Volunteer now, there are a lot of organisations that could use your help. Plus you never know what opportunities volunteering and placements can provide.