Article in partnership with Day Translations. There is a little known fact when it comes to gaining work experience in Ireland. At the intersection between volunteering and taking a work internship, there is a way to gain valuable experience and useful contacts within a short period of time. What is this fast-track work experience option? It’s becoming a committee member for a local event.
The Intersection of Volunteering and Internship
Unpaid work does not sound very appealing, particularly when the pressure is on to earn money as quickly as possible. Whether it’s giving up time to a charity or getting free training at a company in exchange for free labour, traditional unpaid work experience can be a process that requires several months.
If we were to draw a graph with volunteering on one side and internship on the other, the common area between the two would be local committees.
Why Becoming a Local Committee Member Is a Good Idea
Taking Ireland as the example in this article, it is worth noting that many successful local events are the result of the work behind the scenes of committees. Committees are often a mix of people from different walks of life: students, retired people, freelancers, company directors, professionals, teachers etc make up the membership. Each individual assumes a specific role within a working group in the committee, but depending on the size of the committee at times it is required to take on more than one role.
Why is it a good idea to become a member of a local committee? Ireland is divided into 26 counties and each county has a number of local events happening in the annual events calendar. Each county has a different population density, with bigger counties such as Dublin having more than 1 million people, Cork with just under half a million people and Galway with approximately 200,000 people. Smaller counties such as Roscommon, Sligo and Laois have only about 50,000 people.
Here are some of the advantages of joining a local committee.
Advantages of Becoming a Committee Member
The population of the whole of Ireland is approximately 5 million. It is a relatively small country and if you are strategic with your networking, it is easier to make useful connections in Ireland than in a large metropolis such as London (2023 population 9.6 million).
By trading a few hours a week, mostly in the evening, to do committee work, you have the potential to:
- use your valuable skills in a non-competitive environment
- gain immediate feedback on your work
- have a supportive team around you
- network with senior decision-makers
- take on responsibilities that are normally granted to people with several years’ work experience
- have creative freedom within the committee’s brief
- contribute innovative ideas to tried and tested formats
- develop strategic contacts that are likely to recommend you for future projects.
A Practical Example: St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committees
St. Patrick’s Day parades happen each year all around Ireland (and beyond!) on the 17th of March. The preparation for the parades in each county takes a few weeks, with volunteers working on various aspects of the event such as liaising with groups walking the parade, security, traffic diversions, publicity and so on.
To find out about the committees in a number of locations the best starting point is to browse through local papers online and search for St. Patrick’s Day committees on social media (Facebook being the first port of call).
If you have experience in digital media you are likely to be in demand to help promote the parade across social media channels. You may also be called upon to draft press releases if that’s your expertise.
The first meeting of local committees are often open to the public and advertised widely because each year new volunteers are welcome to join. These open meetings tend to happen in hotels or large pubs or restaurants and they are very informal.
Later on, meetings become more structured with an agenda and clear allocation of roles and responsibilities. Day-to-day communications are often done via private messaging and emails.
After a number of weeks, by attending meetings regularly and contributing to the work of the committee, you are likely to have accumulated enough experience and, most importantly, acquired new business contacts that you can use as a platform to further your career. There are so many events happening throughout Ireland, from music to food festivals, offering brilliant opportunities to get involved while also making lasting memories.