Finding a summer job that’s relatively easy going is near impossible. You don’t want to kill yourself working over the summer, you just want some extra money to spend on new clothes and a few drinks in your local, you might even stretch it to a cheap last minute holiday in sun. But no, it’s never going to happen. And judging by various different job search sites, if you want any job at all, you’d better be a people person. When you search for part time or temporary work, you’ll almost always be bombarded with fundraising jobs for various different charities, mystery shoppers, going door to door trying to sell God knows what, or the old reliable, “TV EXTRAS WANTED! APPLY NOW!”
The problem is, when you click to see what it is these jobs require you’re forced to ask yourself: Are you super enthusiastic? Have you got great people skills? Are you confident and outgoing? Do you have buckets of energy? Are you highly motivated and ambitious with great negotiation skills? Are you excited at the prospect of meeting new people every single day? And do you have the motivation and drive to work exceptionally hard and only get paid by commission?
You’d be tired after just reading the damn thing. Anyone who has the energy to actually do any of these jobs deserves a medal. We see them every day on the street, but straight away we avoid them. The dreaded charity fundraisers. “Sorry,” we tell them, if we were too slow to get out of the firing line, “I’ve to catch the bus” or, “I’ve to go to the dentist”, or for the less apologetic among us, “No”, just a simple two lettered word that lets the fundraiser know that you’re having none of it.
The level of enthusiasm required to do these jobs is something that I don’t think many Irish people have – certainly I don’t think any of my friends could muster up that much energy to put themselves in a position of such public dislike. We’re a fairly placid bunch of twenty somethings who tend not to get overly excited about anything other than holidays, nights out, new clothes and Chinese take aways – surely we can’t be that different from the rest of the nation?
I spoke to Niamh Ferris, the Senior Recruitment Developer at Total Fundraising, a service provider to the not-for-profit sector who offer charities a wide range of fundraising services. Their most recent job advertisement is looking for people who have confidence and excellent communication skills, a high level of self-motivation and ambition and a genuine desire to over-achieve. I asked her how hard it was to find the perfect candidate in Ireland, where most of us would rather curl up and die than put ourselves out there for the whole world to see, “We meet a lot of people through interviews to find the perfect team of fundraisers so, yes, it can be difficult as we do require a really high standard to represent our charity clients. However, finding that diamond in the rough makes it worth it.”
Niamh says that while us Irish may not be known for our fantastic public speaking skills, there are other qualities which make us the ideal candidate, “Every individual is different. Traditionally speaking Irish people can be known as ‘grafters’ which is a really admirable quality too. Confidence and bravado are useless qualities for fundraisers unless there is great work ethic to back it up.” However, enthusiasm for the job at hand is still one of the most important qualities, “It shows the candidate really wants the job, that they are passionate about the charities we represent and that they will therefore be very committed employees.”
While I was looking through these job advertisements, I couldn’t help but think that the ideal candidate would most likely be American. They are the kind of people these companies want to fundraise for them. It may be a complete stereotype, but if you had to give the country of America a personality as a whole, wouldn’t it be a happy, confident, enthusiastic, optimistic and outgoing one? We just have to look at our own Enda Kenny and compare him to Barack Obama to see the vast differences between Irish and American levels of confidence and enthusiasm. Sandra Sheerin, founder of Public Speaking Ireland, moved to America when she was ten years old and stayed there for 12 years. Going from an all girls Catholic school to a mixed American high school was one hell of a change, but as far as confidence building goes, it was the best chance she could have been given. She says that our lack of confidence for public speaking is all down to our education system, “In America, public speaking is part of the curriculum from a young age so it takes the fear out of it. Children are encouraged to speak up and voice their opinions in school and at home. They’re brought up that way. In Irish schools, you’re told to sit down, shut up and listen – you’re not allowed to make a sound! Then you go into third level education and avoid public speaking like the plague, and you might get away with it. Then you do the same thing in a work environment, and then that’s when I end up with a class full of 40 year olds!”
Sandra says that if you need help with coming across as more enthusiastic in interviews, what you need to do is pick three things that you’re really good at, and talk about them. “Irish people don’t really like doing that, they think they’re putting themselves on a pedestal, but there’s always something you actually are really good at”. The key is to really believe you’re good at whatever it is you’re saying you’re good at, rather than learning something off because that’s what you think you should be saying.
That’s the hard part though, isn’t it? Telling people how great you are, fighting the natural reaction to talk yourself down. Sure, you’ve got degrees coming out your ears and hold down three jobs so you can afford to send your dying granny on the holiday she’s always wanted, but what else would ye be doin’? It’s no big deal.
Maybe if we were more enthusiastic about our own achievements, we’d be more confident and better suited to the kind of jobs that require the energy and confidence to persuade people to part with their money for a good cause. And then maybe, just maybe, we could talk our way out of this recession….