I wish I could say that my idea came to me in a dream or was brought about by a flash of inspiration. If I did that would be a lie. My idea was born out of frustration, scribbled in a battered notepad one rainy cramped train journey from a useless internship back to a worried family.
It was always going to be a struggle for me in the job market, branded with the black spot of unemployability, a 2:2. My first year in the big wide world consisted of trying and failing to secure a job in journalism/the charitable sector. After a few months accumulating rejection letters large enough to signal incoming forces, I decided to think differently.
I had worked for Tibetan organisations in India before and during university. Back there I felt needed and had a purpose, something I (as I'm sure many others faced with underemployment and unemployment) craved. So after selling worldly possessions and raiding my -working the night shift at Tesco- savings I returned there. Soon after arriving I used my local knowledge to secure a volunteer job at a local newspaper. What struck me about my time there was I gained confidence, skills and most importantly the experience to return to the UK , apply for an internship and get it.
In hindsight, I hate internships.
For this internship I moved to London and rented a room from a married couple and their scratchy cat, lived in the reduced section of supermarkets and crucially was losing money every month.
We worked longer than contracted hours and Saturdays unpaid and got paid minimum wage for the hours we were contracted for. People with PhDs and firsts selling charity Christmas cards in the cold. Internships have become the byword for cheap and short contracted labour. Doing an internship in London cost me £1,200 a month (I got paid below that, way below). Using my internship as an extreme example there were 36 interns, seven jobs offered and three actually given. Worryingly, internships have a huge impact on graduates, not on their employability but on their confidence. We spend three years of university feeling safe, secure and brilliant, then the world is thrust upon us and rejection letters cut like knives.
But enough of the Charles Dickens's esque story
So, this is where my idea was born; employers are looking for those with experience and using the traditional route can mean playing financial Russian Roulette, doing unpaid or underpaid work becoming even more riddled with debt with no guarantee of a job. Working in India boosted my employability and my self-confidence and cost a fraction of the cost of London living. Employers are looking for something unique and impressive and I intend to give anyone and everyone that chance.
It was with that idea The Skills and Experience Exchange (SEE) was scribbled alive. An idea of a charity that helps graduates secure jobs through meaningful work within a Tibetan organisation combined with careers advice, career skills and training high in the Himalayas. The graduates gain the experience and the host organisations they are placed in gain the skills of people educated to the highest level.
A charity by graduates for graduates. I want every aspect of the whole charity to be done by recent graduates from its foundations to its day to day working. If I can help any graduate gain experience I will, whatever help I can give to stop people having to go through what I went through.
My experience? Well I've worked in the community I hope to send the graduates into for six years. I've worked in Tibetan organisations in the UK and in large charities. I've fundraised, written press releases till my fingers bled and basically lived and breathed helping others most of my life.
Any experience in actually setting up a charity? Zilch.
So I ask, how good is an idea? Well over the next months and years I intend to find out just how good this idea is with the help of whoever is willing.
Until next time, SEE opportunities.
To find out more about The Skills and Experience Exchange, head over to the website.
Follow James Dunn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@SEE_UK