Monday, September 22, 2008

Enhance Your Post-University Future Through Ultimate Volunteering

I'm always surprised that there aren't more students in their last and second last years' of study involved in organising Ultimate.

This is because of what I can only call one of the slightly 'selfish' reason for volunteering (I'll write elsewhere some other time about the good reasons for volunteering). A great 'selfish' reason for volunteering towards the end of your Uni career is beefing up your curriculum vitae and giving you material to stand out from the crowd at job interviews, and getting some good referees.

Being a bit further along the career path than many Ultimate players, and having sat on many selection panels (including for graduate programmes), I am routinely surprised by people fresh out of uni who hope to gain a position based on their GPA, and perhaps to stand out a bit due to a part-time job they've had, or the sports or music they played, and many positions they held in High School.

Alas, the problem is that everyone has a GPA. You don't stand out by having one. Even if you have a high GPA, so do lots of other people. And if I may tangent further – an organisation that recruits purely by GPA is probably one you don't really want to work for. Yes, these are usually companies with lots of valuable kudos and hence have many people seeking jobs there, so they need something simple to start with. But relying on a GPA is the laziest form of recruitment I can think of, and organisations that are lazy about who they recruit are going to be lazy about making their workplace a good place to be. (This is not to say "Don't work hard or worry about your marks" - what I mean is "Don't rely solely on your GPA to get your career going.")

Part time jobs are useful to have on your curriculum vitae. Personal interests are really only a useful trigger if your interviewer shares those interests. Roles you had in High School generally don't bear a lot of scrutiny – you were a lot younger and probably a lot different then, and teachers and parents still had a significant influence upon these things (I've never met a House Captain who wasn't also a student favoured by teachers, for example).

But backt to Ultimate - Ultimate is also becoming an excellent place to get a couple of good personal/work referees. Amusing as it might seem to some, these days there are some "fine upstanding members of the community" who play Ultimate. Doctors, lawyers, senior public servants, engineers, executives, small business people, scientists, and so forth. These are people who understand the work environment, and also people who value others volunteering to organise Ultimate (as they've often been there and done that too). An enthusiastic fellow Ultimate player can make for a stand-out referee, along with your existing work-related ones. Some CV's have a Work Referee and a Personal Referee on them – stand out a bit by having a Volunteer Work Referee as well (and any other 'experienced' workers out there - I encourage you to pass on some of your advice in the comments section below).

But anyway, think about some of these connections you can make when you've done some volunteering for Ultimate, and you find yourself in a job interview. Here's a few examples:

Volunteer job: Food at big tournament
Fill Your Interview With: "Food is the most important thing to a sportsperson, and everyone has their own tastes. At a recent Ultimate tournament, I managed to feed 200 people over two days. I had to get a few helpers to get it all to happen. Our feedback showed everyone was happy with what we provided them."
Translation: I have skills at large scale logistics, managing people, and customer service.

Volunteer job: President of club or association
Fill Your Interview With: "Our club had a great President but he graduated and left town. To be frank, we floundered for a bit because nobody would step up. But eventually I did and in doing so, I learned a couple of valuable things. One was that people just want someone to take the lead and get things going. I was surprised at how quickly everything seemed to just start to happen once we had me take up the role. We ended up having one of our most successful years, with our membership increasing by 50% over the twelve months I was the President."
Translation: I have leadership skills, or at least a willingness to take leadership roles.

Volunteer job: Coaching at schools
Fill Your Interview With: "I volunteered to teach Ultimate to kids at schools. Mixing school hours with University lectures and everything else was a challenge. It was great to watch the kids improve – a lot of them are now playing regularly outside of school and wanting to play when they get to University."
Translation: I like to help other people improve, I can adapt quickly.

Volunteer job: Webmaster
Fill Your Interview With: "I managed my club's website for three years, and even though I've left University I'm still running it. When I started, we only had a basic page of contacts, but I've added a lot of functionality. Partly its been for fun and to help out, but I've been given some 'wish lists' from the other players, so I've had a few challenges – either in the coding or in managing people's expectations in terms of what's possible or worth doing with limited volunteer resources.
Translation: When I take something on, I commit to it long term. I take pride in a job well done. I like to be challenged, but can manage expectations of non-technical people.

This isn't meant to be an endless list, but hopefully it can get some of you thinking about what you're going to be doing after you finish University, and maybe how fitting some Ultimate organising into your schedule in the next year or two can help.


Tomsteve said...

I don't have a GPA :(

Anonymous said...

pretty much every job interview i've ever had has had a fairly large chumk taken up by ultimate talk..

Hit rate - about 9/10 ;-)

Hard to believe but it does actually seem to help..