4 advantages of volunteering and unpaid internships

According to an analysis done by Kenya National Bureau of Statistics in the 2019 national census results, 75 percent of the population comprises people under 35 years. However, employment opportunities in Kenya are scarce. Searching for a job is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack. 

What options do recent graduates and other youth have? The advertised vacancies require years of experience which they do not have. Concerns have been raised to employers about this discrepancy but little has changed.

Some young people are opting to exploit the opportunities offered by freelance job postings and social media but not everyone is cut out for that. Starting a small business is also not everyone’s cup of tea, but with some experience a lot could change.

Why volunteering and internships are worthwhile

It is maybe time young unemployed people created their own luck by treading into the untilled grounds of volunteering and unpaid internships. Most youth are unwilling to take such an opportunity despite it offering great advantages.

1. Gain invaluable skills

Once you leave school and enter the job market with the intention of being employed or starting your own business, you require some experience or skillset in your area of expertise. Training for such skillsets is expensive for employers. Taking on an unpaid internship opportunity would offer you the chance to gain lifelong invaluable professional training.

For instance, when interning at a media house you’ll be able to learn and improve on skills such as research. You’ll be expected to gain an in-depth learning on a certain subject. Your writing and communication skills will be improved during the internship period, skills that are transferable to different professional fields. You will have improved your chances of succeeding in the job market.

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2. Build extensive professional networks

An unpaid internship will offer you a chance to familiarise and surround yourself with people working in your field. Through this exposure you learn from the experts and other people who have been in the industry longer.

People who have the experience and knowledge on how things work, the changing trends, competition and available opportunities. These people might come in handy in the future as they can act as referees when you’re seeking for a job.

3. Get a recommendation letter

When applying for most jobs one is required to bring their curriculum vitae. Besides possessing skills and experience relevant to the job applied for, you might need a reason to convince your probable employer that it would be their loss not having you on their side. 

A recommendation letter from your internship may help you make the cut. It acts as a boost to show your proficiency in your professional field.

4. Look at the bigger picture

Many would complain that unpaid internships won’t cater for their financial needs.  You don’t have to wait until you are done with school to venture into the job market. You can take advantage of the holidays and weekends while in university to take up an internship. There are people who even intern part-time as they study. By the time they graduate, they are miles ahead in the job experience section. Employers love people with self-initiative too.

Think about it. In the words of Robert Frost, two roads diverged into the wood, take the one less traveled by and it will make all the difference.