Giving a little for a lot

I have always felt really guilty about never having worked a proper day in my life.

Sorry, you haven’t what? 

Yeah, you’re probably surprised… Having just turned 19, I must belong to a small minority of teenagers who haven’t held a part-time job. My excuse to myself has always been that I’m far too committed with schoolwork. Even I’m not buying that one anymore.

I’m not that lazy. I study bloody hard I’ll have you know… But so do most people. The reality is that I’ve always been fortunate enough never to need to work for money. And like most people, anything I don’t need to do rarely gets done. Getting a job was never a burning concern – that is until now. Since arriving at a university, the real world has reared it’s ugly head.

All of a sudden, money has become much more than just a number I can indifferently watch fall and rise and fall and fall… It turns out those digits on my bank balance aren’t imaginary.

Person Holding Hire Me Sign in Crowd

If you earn a pay cheque, or have at least sought to acquire one, you’ll know that getting that first job can be difficult. To apply even for a job stacking shelves you will find yourself up against a dozen other applicants – if not a great deal more. Almost all of them will have held other jobs. Most will already be experienced shelf-stackers. And what do you have on your CV? If yours is anything like mine: a Bronze DofE Award (that I didn’t really deserve and received years ago), and a handful of grades that say “yeah I can knock up an essay” – hardly shelf-stacking credentials.

So with a whole month off from university at Easter, it was about time then that I sought some work experience, in-between the 5,000 words in essays I had due (there I go with that excuse again). Okay, I wasn’t quite so motivated… I was led to work experience like an un-thirsty horse to water. You see, my mum had noticed that the local Cancer Research charity shop were after volunteers. They usually are to be honest. And she basically dragged me in. I wasn’t reluctant because I didn’t think it was a valuable use of my time. And I wasn’t particularly bothered about it being unpaid work. I was simply reluctant about the thought of trying something new – leaving my comfort zone – it intimidated me.

I suppose that’s why they call it your “comfort” zone.

Well I did go in, and I have been volunteering a few shifts this holiday. I’m not writing this because I’m after a pat on the back for aiding a good cause. And I don’t want a pat on the back for overcoming my anxiety about work either. I just wanted to write about how the whole experience was really gratifying. I wanted to record my own thoughts about putting myself out there for a change. In the hope that I can look back on this for inspiration to do it more often. I’ve grown up a lot since moving out and starting university but I feel this was another learning curve for me, and a long-overdue one at that.

cancer research shopI couldn’t possibly finish this without mentioning some of the other volunteers I’ve met. I find few thoughts more inspiring than the fact that an army of volunteers – mostly pensioners – are battling cancer, and countless other diseases, in charity shops around the world, one cup of tea at a time. I’ll definitely be volunteering again in the future.

I’d encourage anyone to do the same – particularly if you need work experience!

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