Stand out from the crowd in tough times – stick your hand up and volunteer


I gave a presentation recently to a group of Accounting Students. Just coming to the end of their studies, they were full of hope for their future careers and were keen to understand what the prospects might be for them to find the job of their dreams. Having given them what I considered to be an extremely honest assessment of the employment market, I wanted to give them at least something positive to take away in order that they might stand a greater chance than most of really standing out to the extent that employers feel compelled to take them on.

Despite the fact that so many organisations are reducing headcount or freezing hiring activity, I would argue that the principle barrier to any organisation realising its goals lies in its ability to attract and retain, engage with and develop great talent,. On many an occasion it has been said that people are a company’s greatest asset. Arguably it’s more specific than that. It is the right people and in the right seats that can mean the difference between business success and failure.

It strikes me that there are a number of potential subjects for a blog here, not least how should an organisation ensure it is at the forefront of attracting the best talent. However I want to focus on something that I passionately believe affords job seekers the opportunity to really stand out in a crowded space.

Volunteer – yes consider doing something for nothing! Revolutionary I know.

Increasingly I am struck by the entitlement culture that we live in, driven by the question “what’s in it for me” a view that roughly translated tends to mean what am I going to get paid for doing it? If I’m not going to be paid for it, frankly why should I bother to do it?

Life shouldn’t be about what you get, it should be about what you give. Get out there and make volunteering part of your job search. It may be as simple as writing to your local accounting firm and asking them if they would be prepared to let you work with them for nothing in order to gain some valuable work experience. It could be something as incredible (as I witnessed only this week) as volunteering to work in an orphanage in Bulgaria. Whatever it may be, it need not cost you anything other than your time, energy and commitment and it could prove an invaluable way of evidencing to a potential employer your desire to do that bit more.

Volunteer work should be shouted about loudly on your CV. It offers a great topic of discussion at interview and gives you the opportunity to talk passionately about something that you did. It creates a favourable impression with a prospective employer and affords you the opportunity to genuinely set yourself apart from all the other “self motivated, ambitious, hardworking team players” that just about every CV includes on personal profiles.

It also offers you the opportunity to broaden your skills, your network of contacts, increase your self confidence, and importantly helps someone else whilst you feel good about what you are doing. So go on, stick your hand up. Volunteer for something and use this as an opportunity to genuinely make yourself stand out in a crowded space.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Stand out from the crowd in tough times – stick your hand up and volunteer

  1. Ron Wahnon

    This is good sound advice. As an employer, I have interviewed many potential candidates over the years. On the strength of a couple of interviews it is not always possible to assess their character and strengths, especially when they are well rehearsed. “Volunteer” experience can enrich the CV, expecially in the area of people contact and social networking. Exploring this can help the prospective employer to more fully assess the candidate’s fit into an organisation.

  2. great advice – very sharp on the entitlement culture, which put another way means: i have rights (but not responsibilities). as lee so clearly realises, there is something about giving that gives back to the giver; those who just want and take never really achieve their potential. well done lee – good point

  3. There are 2 things which are good additions to a CV in a career interval – continuing education & volunteer work.

    There’s nothing more impressive than a candidate doing volunteer works especially in a relative field. A friend of mine who was a volunteer nurse for a government hospital for 4 years is now working as a Clinical Instructor in a university with a top grade salary.

  4. A very useful and interesting tip. Voluntering sometimes even helps you to understand what you really want to pursue in life. It is helpful for individuals who are confused as to which profession they should take up.

  5. Good Suggestion. This whole process helps in realizing your goals and objectives in life. This process guides in framing your career in more professional manner.

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