Before graduating university with a marketing and communication degree, I was trying to find a job in my field. I wanted a head start before graduation. There was something in me that told me to venture into the workforce before hundreds of others graduated with the same degree. Despite my eagerness, I found that no employer would hire me without work experience. The top five companies I wanted to work for didn’t even acknowledge my applications. I was frustrated and disappointed at the same time.
Six months before graduating, I was sitting in an advertising seminar class. My professor asked everyone, “What are you going to do after you graduate? What preparations have you guys made? Are you guys marketing yourselves?” No one had an answer. I thought about my rejected applications, and in that moment, it dawned on me: I could volunteer for the companies I wanted to work for.
A bold move pays off
The next day I called all five companies and asked to speak with their human resource department. I told them about my degree and that I was looking for an internship or opportunity to volunteer my time in their PR and marketing department. I also stressed how I, as a millennial, could add value to their brand. Surprisingly, three out of the five companies scheduled a meeting for me to discuss strategies with them.
I didn’t know what I was going to do, what I was going to say, or even how I would add the value I promised them. All I knew was that I wanted a foot in, and volunteering was the only way. When I asked my professor, she said, “Use what you’ve learned.”
Before going to the meetings, I did a lot of homework on each company. I analyzed the current market they were operating in, looked at the threats and strengths within the industry, and examined the areas they weren’t operating in. I went as far as analyzing their competitors and identifying areas in which they were successful. It was all worth it, since after the meetings I was guaranteed a volunteer position with all three companies. Two of them even offered me a stipend to assist with travel.
The benefits of volunteering
While others may look at volunteering or community service as precarious work, in the long run it pays off. Volunteering helped me use what I was learning in a real-life context, and without it I wouldn’t have gained the necessary experience to hone my skills and add value to my résumé.
While volunteering can also help a company save money, your efforts won’t go unnoticed and your value will certainly be recognized. Volunteering raises your visibility within the company (and sometimes within the public eye, if you’re working with a high-profile organization), and there’s a good chance you could move into a full-time, permanent position if you play your cards right. Even if this isn’t the case, it can help you start building a reputation within the industry where you volunteered.
Finally, the networking opportunities are endless! While you may not get media coverage or global recognition for the work you do as a volunteer, a volunteer opportunity allows you to build your personal portfolio to take with you anywhere you go. Employers like to see initiative and effort in people they hire or plan to hire. So, as a job seeker or volunteer, don’t be afraid to go the extra mile and think outside the box.