Hats off to everyone who has just graduated in their respective fields, and special kudos to fresh graduates who, after 16 or more years of schooling at different levels in the Ugandan education system, have finally graduated.
I was a fresh graduate nine years ago and I know the feeling. It is an exciting and beautiful feeling. It is a time when one feels they have conquered the world; one has lots of expectations, new dreams of what the future holds, and of course the excitement of joining the world of work.
As soon as one graduates, he or she expects to find a job and start working right away, or at least, that is what every graduate aspires to, whether that is in the formal employment or business. They want to put their potential and skills to work, and make a positive contribution in their line of work with their fresh outlook in life.
Although every graduate desires to find a well-paying job, and immediately start working, the reality is that not everyone will find a job due to the problem of unemployment, not only in Uganda but globally. According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate in Uganda increased to 2.44 per cent in 2020 from 1.8 per cent in 2019.
In Uganda, the unemployment rate measures the number of people actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labour force. From the look of things, youth unemployment doesn’t seem to be coming to an end soon.
According to some reports, each year, 400,000 youths enter the labour market and compete for only 80,000 formal jobs, leaving a staggering 320,000 youths unemployed. This is where the aspect of volunteerism comes in. Volunteerism is the practice of providing time and skills for the benefit of other people and causes rather than for financial benefit.
For any fresh graduate who won’t find a job right away in the formal employment, but wants to be formally employed, it is a good idea to look for and take on volunteering opportunities. Don’t just sit at home, watching television, and doing nothing. Put your time, energy and skills to good use by volunteering as you look for a job.
There are many local, national and international non-governmental organizations, community organizations, and UN agencies, like the United Nations Volunteers programme, looking for volunteers with no experience. Whereas some organizations pay the volunteers, others don’t. But at this point, one ought to look beyond the money, and consider what they gain through volunteering.
While some organizations and or companies advertise online or in newspapers for volunteers, others head-hunt. Search online or ask people through networking opportunities.
Volunteering comes with a range of benefits. It is a great way to gain job-relevant experience, add new skills to one’s curriculum vitae (CV), and could lead to a full-time job; it is an opportunity to learn new skills, broaden one’s network by meeting and interacting with new people, and these could link one to job opportunities.
Being a volunteer allows one to be part of a larger community working to make a difference in the world, and of course helps one gain confidence when he or she takes on a new challenge outside of their comfort zone. Volunteering also helps a person to counteract many of the negative feelings that come with being unemployed. All these benefits will better one’s chances of success in their career.
On the other hand, this is a call to different organizations, and companies. Open doors of your workplaces, and give room to young people who want to volunteer and gain better knowledge in their respective fields by putting in place proper employee volunteer programs.
This not only helps the volunteers, but organizations and companies can benefit as well by attracting and retaining top talent, building a corporate positive image, and thus help strengthen a company’s brand.
To all fresh graduates, don’t undermine volunteerism; it can be the channel in which you find your dream job, or build an amazing career.
The author is a journalist and consultant writer/editor.