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How Volunteer Blogging Helped me Get a Leg Up in the Professional World 

I went to SFU in the hopes of getting a job once I graduated. What a radical idea, I know. So at the end of my second year with 60 credits of job-getting potential under my belt, I put on my best-pleated work pants and set out on a mission to get a summer job related to Communications.

However, even before I got to show anyone my spiffy work-appropriate outfit I was hit with a brick wall of rejection: “You need at least 2 years of work experience to get this (entry-level) position.” Unfortunately, this wasn’t a one-time caveat. The more I looked, the more I found this soul-devouring phrase on each company website, LinkedIn page, and (heaven forbid) Craigslist ad I found.

So with my tail between my legs, I retreated back to my minimum-wage service job.

Frustrated, angry, and feeling a bit jipped by this whole ‘university’ thing, I went to my Communications advisor for help (well actually to rant, but she helped me nonetheless). She told me that going to school was just one part of the puzzle and that if I wanted to graduate university with a writing job I needed to build up my portfolio with volunteer writing gigs first.

And that’s exactly what I did. Keeping my service job over the summer, I applied to be a volunteer blogger for anyone that would take me: Raising the Village, the CMNSU, various SFU departments, local churches, not-for-profit groups, you name it. This experience, albeit unpaid, was one of the most rewarding things I have done during my time at Simon Fraser. Not only did I end up with a diverse and meaty portfolio but my writing style matured and I picked up some amazing references along the way.

And to think, this all began with me almost putting my fist through my computer.

Recently, with only a few weeks left of my final semester at SFU, I re-started my search for a Communications job. Putting on a new-and-improved spiffy outfit, I walked into an interview for an editorial position at a local magazine for which I was completely qualified. During the interview, my interviewer asked me one of the best questions I had ever heard: “With so many people coming to this interview with the same qualifications, what makes you stand out from everyone else?”

My answer was simple: determination and passion. It was my volunteer experience and my determination to stick with unpaid gigs (even when secretly doubting if they would ever lead to paid ones) coupled with my passion for the industry that made me stand out (and, yes, get the job!).

Looking back, if I could tell my first year-self one thing it would be to say yes to as many opportunities-whether they be volunteer, class-oriented, or paid- as possible (well that, and to throw out those awful lime green cut-offs).

If you’re looking for some volunteer blogging experience to build your portfolio try checking out SFU’s myExperience, Jobinga’s Volunteering Site and Indeed

SFU Student
Ashley Macey is a fourth year student at Simon Fraser University pursuing a major in Communications and minors in English and Publishing. Writing is her passion and during her time at SFU she has written for various blogs including the Communication Student Union and Raising the Village. Follow her on twitter at @TheAshleyMacey

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