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The volunteer experience

Without doubt, the biggest challenge facing first time job hunters is the quest to gain work experience. Almost all job ads clearly state that only candidates with work experience need apply, so school, college and university leavers find themselves in a catch-22 situation; how to get work experience if you can’t get work!

The answer is surprisingly simple and not only good for you, but can be good for others too. Volunteering your time at a charity or organisation that supports a worthy cause or those less fortunate than most, provides an ideal opportunity for you to gain valuable working hours and prove the life skills employers look for i.e. commitment, team work and diligence.

“More and more clients are looking for demonstrable life skills above specific skills. Many skills can be taught with on-the-job training, but key behaviours, attitudes and characteristics cannot,” says Linda Madayi, managing director of Khatala Staffing. “Presenting a CV with volunteer experience and references that show a keen interest in learning, commitment to the cause in terms of time, effort and energy and an ability to work well for or with others are highly sought after life skills and if first time job hunters can demonstrate these, then they go to the top of the pile.”

The ideal time to start the volunteer work is while you are still at school or studying so that on graduating you are qualified and experienced to enter the world of work.

  • Some advice on how to choose and manage your volunteering:
  • Identify a cause you are passionate about. It is always easier and more pleasurable working for something you love.
  • Find a position that has some relevance to your desired future career e.g. if you are studying an administrative course, then volunteer to do filing or basic administration for the organisation or if you are wanting to focus on finances in your future, get involved in fund raising or if sales is your calling, try reading to the elderly or teaching children as both require similar presentation and confidence skills.


  • Keep your commitment. These organisations rely on volunteers and you letting them down not only will reflect poorly on your future CV reference but also could serious hamper the organisations operation.
  • Take advantage of any training opportunities on offer.
  • Ask questions, learn as much as possible and make the most of the opportunity. Not only will you gain valuable knowledge and experience you will demonstrate a positive attitude and enthusiasm that will make the reference even more attractive to future employers.

If you are unable to physically get to and from the premises of the charity or organisation, ask for work that you can do off-site such as working online or in your community.

For a list of possible charity organisations visit

Can do will do