Experiencing Work to Gain Work Experience

These days employers often require us to have experience before they will consider us for a position but how do we get experience without first having a job? It’s tough but there are ways.

When I was studying for my G.C.S.E.s we were required to dedicate a few hours to serving our community. My friend and I chose to help out at a charity shop in our town.

How Community Work and a Mentor Can Transform a Persons Life

It was a small shop with about 5 part time, voluntary staff and one full time, employed manager, called Lesley. Everyone was welcoming and there was a sense of comradery with none of the usual competitiveness or jealousy which often arises in the workplace. The shop mostly sold goods donated by the public such as clothes, toys, books, household nick knacks but also new items hand made by industrious and skilful people.

To begin with we were set to work in the stock room, sorting through clothes that had just been donated. We had to separate seasonal items, steam clean them, then use a pricing guide to tag them so that they were ready for the shop floor. Price tags were colour coded and dated – one of the ladies explained that this was so that stock could be rotated and kept fresh which is an important aspect in retail.

We spent two hours a fortnight helping out over the school term and as our service came to an end we were offered the opportunity to work Saturdays for pay. It was only £10 but a little spending money sounded great to me so I accepted. I usually spent most of my hard earned cash on clothes at the shop since I also got staff discount but it was fun for me to be able to purchase clothes in great condition that I would not have otherwise been able to encourage my parents to buy for me.

Lesley, the manager, was a great mentor – she allowed me to try my hand at almost every aspect of running a shop and I respected her for encouraging me. I worked the till, created displays and put stock out on the shop floor. I enjoyed the responsibility and I enjoyed the job. After a few weeks Lesley had enough trust and faith in my abilities that she began to teach me how to cash up and record the days takings in the accounts for head office.

I was 16 and these skills, to merchandise, handle cash, work as part of a team and demonstrate good customer service will hold me in good stead for the rest of my working life. The things I learnt were all great experiences that I was able to put on my CV. I went on to work in a shoe shop and as a waitress through my A-levels, was a care assistant in a nursing home during the summer holidays at university, became a manager of a bookshop upon graduating then most recently worked in administration for an accountant. So, although my first work experience was in retail, a lot of the skills I learnt are easily transferable to many industries. Those few hours that I put into community service rewarded me immediately and will keep on rewarding me in years to come.

There are many charities that you can get involved in right on your doorstep – shops, homeless shelters, gardening clubs, nursing homes, animal shelters, youth work, coaching – just to name a few. The wonderful thing about volunteering is that you can give as many or as few hours that you can spare and if you have kids you might even be able to take them along too. If you prefer to work from home and you have a particular skill or hobby you enjoy indulging in you can make things that can be sold, raffled off or just enjoyed by those who are unable to buy them themselves.

Volunteering is a wonderful gift that you can give that repays you endlessly whether it’s meeting new people or learning valuable skills that you can then put on your CV to offer a potential employer.

Search for opportunities across the UK below:

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