Don’t look for a volunteering job for money, but as an investment for life, advises management consultant Virender Kapoor.
The biggest hurdle for a fresh graduate looking out for a job is that he has no experience.
Without experience, it is difficult to get a job and without a job you cannot get experience.
It is a catch-22 situation.
While it is important to get some experience before applying for a job, you must also understand that in your situation, experience is much more important than salary.
It is a hard fact which must be both understood and accepted.
How does work experience help?
A fresh graduate is a raw entity. S/he has never been exposed to any outside environment except activities related to school and college.
So what kind of experience are we talking about?
The aim of any internship or work experience is fourfold:
- To improve your confidence
- To better your communication and articulation skills
- To showcase your skills, that you have the grit to do something extra, beyond academic requirements
- And if you’ve been involved with a social cause, it shows you have empathy, that you care about something.
All these are very important to get your first job.
You must have noticed how some of the greatest actors work in theatre and television serials before getting into mainstream cinema.
Actors like Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Shah Rukh Khan, Paresh Rawal and even Shammi Kapoor started their careers with theatre before getting roles in films.
Although the remuneration is poor in theatre, most artistes learn the craft and also gain relevant experience and confidence to face a live audience.
Similarly, when you have no experience, sometimes you may have to work for free. Because you need to start somewhere.
There are two options for you as a graduate to get experience and build your confidence. 1. You can volunteer with an NGO you like and, 2. you can teach your friends or someone who might need your help in a subject you are good at.
How does volunteering help?
By volunteering, students develop life skills and become well-rounded individuals.
They develop life skills as they get involved in activities that are outside of their comfort zones.
Volunteering helps students become competent, employable, and meet their learning objectives. This is the best experience for social sciences as well.
You are volunteering not only for emotional connect or service to the society — though that may be a larger aim — but it will get some hands-on experience and that is very important as well.
Both complement each other.
It should start from school where students can identify with a particular cause or organisation and pursue it through college, learning and improving their perspectives on social development.
In India, NGOs generally pay very little remuneration as compared to a regular corporate job — maybe one fifth of the regular job salary. But the rewarding experience can be weighed in gold.
Because, once you get into a regular job, you will never find time to do social service.
Sooner or later, if you choose to get married and start a family, your daily chores, work stress will leave you with no extra time to devote to social service.
Therefore you can devote this time during school and college days for social issues to gain a different positive perspective.
The estimated average annual salary paid by NGOs in India is in the range of ₹190,000 per annum to ₹390,000 per annum which is about ₹15,000 to ₹32,000 per month. It may not be the best bet for some of you to start your career. But it may help as sustenance allowance.
Don’t look for a volunteering job for money, but as an investment for life.
Working for a social cause keeps you connected to the ground realities, experience poverty and deprivation from close quarters making you more sensitive and empathetic.
In India, you can choose to volunteer from hundreds of social organisations like the PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) that fights for the cause of animals; The World Wildlife Fund that works to stop the degeneration of the planet’s natural environment or HelpAge India that works with disadvantaged elders.
Learn from Barack Obama’s life
Many people don’t know that former American president Barack Obama was a brilliant student at college and could have easily opted for a high paying job in the corporate world. Instead he chose to serve the community during his formative years.
After graduating from Columbia University in 1983, he worked briefly at Business International Corporation and New York Public Interest Research Group.
After living four years in New York, Obama moved to Chicago to work as a community organiser. Between June 1985 to May 1988, he worked as director of the Developing Communities Project (DCP), a church-based community organisation.
During these three years, DCP’s staff grew from 1 to 13 and its annual budget grew from $70,000 to $400,000, with accomplishments including helping set up a job training program, a college preparatory tutoring program, and a tenants’ rights organisation.
According to Obama ‘If you go out and make some things happen, you will fill the world with hope.’
Teaching others is a great way to learn
When you teach someone, several things happen at once:
- Your own knowledge of the subject gets refined.
- You learn to explain one thing in several different ways.
- Your confidence level gets boosted.
- Your skill of articulation as well as communication improves drastically.
- You get a great sense of achievement and satisfaction you can’t measure with money.
I have seen very successful corporate senior executives who teach at colleges.
Although they earn enough, some love to teach as it gives them satisfaction.
In good management colleges corporate faculty is the best way to give our students loads of practical experience through such lectures.
As a fresh graduate you can teach a friend next door or your younger brother or sister.
If you are confident, you may reach out to a larger number of students in a group and conduct classes. Besides academics, art and craft is another great way to share knowledge and expertise.
Once you have done this with all your heart and soul, you can utilise this for any job interview. Make sure you collect some signed testimonials from your students.
Great careers have come out of teaching others.
Learn from Byju Raveendran
Raveendran Byju was born in a small village in Kerala.
He studied in a Malayalam medium school, completed engineering from the Government College of Engineering in Kannur and joined a shipping company as a service engineer.
From a Malayalam medium school to a non-IIT college to a small non-descript job in a shipping company — this could be the normal life of any job seeker in India.
However, in 2003, during vacations, Byju helped his friends who were studying for the Common Admission Test.
Later, he took the CAT and scored a very high percentile. When he took the exam again, he again scored in the 100th percentile.
Two years later, he continued helping people study for the CAT, and based on consistent good results, decided to quit his job.
In 2007, he founded BYJU’s, a test preparation business and the company grew to stadium-size classes. He started coaching classes in a classroom. He was adept at explaining things well so his student capacity swelled.
From competitive exams, he entered the K-12 schools arena for teaching core subjects for exams and created an app with audio visuals to clear basic concepts like laws of motions or how an engine/machine works.
This was a good product to cater for academic need to score well in a board exam or crack an MBA admission test.
While both teaching and volunteering help you in unique ways, everyone who is teaching may not necessarily start a business or become a CEO.
Similarly, everyone who volunteers or works for a social cause may not end up as the President or prime minister.
But the exposure will give you the confidence to crack any interview and have a confident meaningful conversation with anyone.
It will help you your personality and character and teach you skills that you will value for life.
Virender Kapoor is the former director of Pune’s Symbiosis Institute of Management and the founder of Management Institute for Leadership and Excellence in Pune. He has authored more than 36 books on self-improvement designed for school students, senior managers and CEOs.
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