Volunteering And Employability: The WUPID Experience

Posted on April 2, 2010

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Last year’s WUPID (2009) was sponsored by the Graduate Employability Management Scheme (GEMS). GEMS is a government capacity building initiative developed to equip graduates with commercially useful skills and experiences that will enhance their employability. It is a programme developed with the purpose to mobilise human capital to support the country’s economic growth by reducing unemployment among graduates.

Throughout the tournament, we were also assisted by 21 participants of this particular scheme (Gemmies), whom were involved in a multi-varied type of tasks related to event management and customer relations. They were fresh from a two and a half month course and were a group of high-spirited bunch eager for some action. Divided into groups which was supervised by former and experienced WUPID volunteers, they were moved around to expose them to as much debating experience they could muster. Helping out at WUPID was part of their program to enhance their employability.

I am completely baffled however, by the enthusiasm, passion and commitment equally shown by debate volunteers who are either people with a job or students in their mid-term break. These people seem to have forgotten about their daily work and the poor souls waiting at home whose family holiday plans have been ruined and seem hellbent on using this whole WUPID affair in the name of peace and the acculturalization of debating. And I’m not just referring to the runners or time keepers. I’m also referring to the line of adjudicators who keep coming back to debate tournaments for something as much as nothing.

As a debate promoter and organizer responsible for WUPID, I would like to thank them all. And to further extend my humble appreciation, I would like the volunteering to be of some value in your future endeavor. Be it looking for a (new) job or simply asking for a promotion or pay raise, below are some pointers that you may find useful while writing your resume or preparing for your interview. We pray for your success and hope to see you again.

1. Volunteer. It might seem obvious, but if you ain’t got it you can’t flaunt it. Sign up.

2. Stay home. Saving Africa is all very well but volunteering at WUPID teaches you loads of new skills too — 60 per cent of managers surveyed said that local projects developed management skills while 39 per cent valued overseas experience.

3. Think skills. Just one manager in ten thought about how volunteering abroad might help their careers at the outset. But eight out of ten said in retrospect that they had gained management skills.

4. Know what to expect. Skills developed by volunteers include improved creativity, problem-solving, influence and persuasion, communication and creativity. Volunteering in an international event improved ability to manage in a multicultural environment.

5. Shout about it. More than 40 per cent of human resource managers said that they would be more likely to employ a volunteer if they were given more information about how the experience aids professional development.

6. Keep a log. A record of experiences and skills developed while volunteering will help you to sell yourself more effectively to employers.

7. Spell it out. Volunteers should clearly set out in their resumes and at interviews the specific skills that they had developed and how they had applied these in achieving successful outcomes.

8. Find a referee. 40 per cent of employers said that they would appreciate a reference.

9. Get qualified. Use your experiences and new skills to gain a professional trumpet.

10. Take a course. You may lose some skills if you’re away for long. Some 65 per cent of managers feel that long-term volunteers lose touch with new technology or processes.

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