With more people choosing to go to university now than in previous years, it’s becoming increasingly evident that a degree on its own is no longer enough to ensure a job. It would seem pretty fair to assume that a graduate degree will, somewhere down the line, lead to a graduate level job, but for many recent graduates their graduation gown seems a far cry from the dressing gown they now find themselves sat in mid-week.

Most Universities and employers alike want to see evidence of extra-curricular activities and willingness to learn skills outside of what is taught on the course. To them, it implies the individual is going to be well-rounded, proactive and enthusiastic; all qualities that employers want in their company. But with part-time jobs sometimes just as difficult to find as graduate jobs, could the solution to this ‘up-skilling’ be in the form of voluntary work?

There is a widely accepted view amongst voluntary organisations, policy makers, the general public and often the jobless themselves that volunteering can have a positive impact in the search for employment. The most obvious reason being that employers will look for experience on a CV; a lone 2:1 on an A4 piece of paper will soon get lost in the pile of other applications.

The experience of working for a voluntary organisation will teach you valuable lessons that are transferrable to the world of paid work; time-keeping, reliability and balancing different tasks are all crucial skills both in the voluntary and non-voluntary sectors.

But even more important is the personal gains one can get through voluntary work. 88% of volunteers said that doing it gives them a sense of ‘personal achievement’; the fact you feel you are able to contribute effectively will increase your self -confidence and help you come across better to employers, thus increasing your chances of being hired.

However, whilst on paper it may seem that voluntary work is the answer to our employment woes, it’s possible we’ve got our rose-tinted glasses on…

A study found that, while 88% of those looking for work believed volunteering would help them to secure paid work, only 41% who did find a job said volunteering helped them get it. So why the big difference? If volunteering provides us with such invaluable employability skills then surely there shouldn’t be this disparity?

Perhaps the answer lies within a new report from the CIPD, which found that only 16% of employers invite applicants to talk about volunteering in their application process, while only 31% ask them about it in a face-to-face interview. Suggesting that a lot of the time, employers may be focussing solely on previous work experience and failing to recognise the voluntary work that can produce the same valuable skills that paid work does. Peter Cheese, CIPD Chief Executive, urged more employers to ask about the experience candidates might have in this area and, in doing so, they may realise that the exact skills they’re looking for are the ones the candidate has developed through voluntary work.

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