It’s completely normal to be intimidated about getting a job when you’re young. You’re used to following the pattern of school life. You may miss seeing your friends every day and the predictable structure of working towards getting good grades. It’s more comfortable sticking with what you know. So going from education to work is a big step. I should know.
When I left University I felt depressed. I knew that I would need to get a job to survive, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was terrified by the thought that if I didn’t get on the right track with my career that I’d be trapped on a road I didn’t want to be on. I was worried that I’d just end up blindly doing something because that’s where I had the experience. And that with each new job I’d get into a deeper hole of unfulfilling work.
8 years on, and I no longer feel that fear. I know that most workplaces aren’t filled with untouchable ‘experts’ who will look down on me. And I know that work doesn’t have to be serious and cold hearted. I worried that office jobs would be full of joyless automatons filling out spreadsheets with formal suits and formal expressions. But I’ve since realised that work is an extension of education. You never stop learning.
So what changed?
My fears and anxieties about work evaporated once I started volunteering. After uni I was lucky enough to be able to live at my Mum’s, and it was with her support that I stopped sulking and started doing something constructive with my day. She knew someone who worked at Helios Health, a holistic charity which provides complementary therapies for people with terminal illnesses. I was good with computers, and had a little experience with graphic design, writing and photography. Which was largely thanks to what I did at sixth form. Where I was the editor of my sixth form newspaper and studied Photography, Media and English.
As Helios had no one working there with communications skills, I immediately felt useful. In just a few hours a week I managed their social media, wrote articles and improved their website. It was great to have some contact with their clients, which added to the feeling that my skills were helping people who needed support.
I also volunteered at a local arts charity called the Islington Arts Factory. I loved being creative and I come from a creative family. so being around the arts felt like home. I did bits of creative work that could help support organisations in my local community. Volunteering changed my life.
Why? Because I made connections which would set me up for life. I was touched that a member of staff at Helios Health paid for me to go on an expensive digital marketing course. This gave me the skills that would help me get my first post uni job.
I got a role at The Whitechapel Gallery managing an art promotion which spanned East London. Without that internet marketing course I may never have got the job. And it was all because of a connection I made by volunteering, and the experience that volunteering added to my CV.
And I haven’t looked back. I’ve been doing a variety of communications jobs. From filming and photography to website design and social media. One thing led to another, and with the butterfly effect of those first volunteering roles rewarding jobs have opened up to me. So if like me you don’t know what you want to do, just put yourself out there, you never know what could happen.
Just try something (anything), related to your interests. I believe It’s the only way to find your direction in life. Each experience will teach you what you do or don’t like, and little by little you can refine your job search and gradually move towards jobs that you genuinely enjoy.
Volunteering improved my confidence and mental health. It also connected me to my community and helped me find work. So if you’re feeling lost there’s no better way than volunteering to address that. It helped me to find my purpose in life, so maybe it could help you too?
So if you’re reading this and don’t know what to do next. Volunteer for even as little as a few hours a week and you’ll find doors opening up that you didn’t even know existed. When you help others, people help you. It’s helped 10,000s of vInspired volunteers over the years get a job, so why not give it a go?
By Jan Flisek-Boyle
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