It’s a long-standing concept in the career world that volunteering can lead to more and better employment opportunities. Research, however, has been unable to determine whether volunteering can indeed increase your job prospects conclusively. But even without any scientific data to back it up, it’s important for any professional to understand that it may well be your secret weapon when it comes to getting employed, especially if you are a long-term jobseeker or a recent graduate.
Interestingly, research has been able to prove that it’s essential for professionals to not overdo volunteering. According to research conducted by the University of Birmingham, a graduate’s career may well start on the right foot as long as they’ve managed to effectively balance the amount of time dedicated to voluntary schemes and other endeavours. Doing a bit of charity won’t hurt your career opportunities, but it may help you make the transition into the career world much easier. Unpaid employment can also assist people with gaps in employment.
Apart from the obvious benefit of helping make the world a better place, there’s also a lot volunteering can do for your career. From making you more employable to helping you gain new skills, volunteering can be that one thing that can help set you apart from the competition.
Here are some of the most important volunteering benefits
- You’ll develop new skills and competencies: From hard to soft skills, there’s a wide array of competencies you can gain while doing voluntary work.
- You can apply existing skills: Having a degree may have once been sufficient to help you get a job, but in today’s labour market you also need to be able to demonstrate that you’ve applied the skills and knowledge you’ve learnt.
- Explore new paths: It’s often difficult to decide which industry to focus on and this is where volunteering can help. You can do various stints at different organisations that will allow you to experience many industries.
- Build Your Network: Working with organisations will help you meet lots of people that can help you achieve your professional goals.
- It makes you happier during your job search: Most people become miserable when searching for a job, but by doing something as meaningful as volunteering, you are essentially eliminating the chances of getting depressed.
- It creates a positive impression: Your professional development will depend heavily on whether you can impress your prospective employers or not.
- Get offered a job: Getting offered a job within the organisation you’ve been volunteering for is possible so long you excel and show initiative and passion for the work you do there.
How to Maximise Your Volunteering Experience
In order to make the most of your experience, it’s essential to commit to it, and this means that you should treat the organisation as if it were your place of employment. Make sure you are punctual at all times, while you should also demonstrate the same amount of eagerness you’d show in a new workplace. It’s also important to put your creativity to use and to help the organisation move forward.
By showing commitment, you are ensuring that you’ll be able to create effective relationships with the people in the organisation, while you’ll also be making sure that you are gaining skills that can help you get a job later on. However, if you are interested in maximising your volunteering experience, you shouldn’t just do the minimum – you should also consider implementing some of the strategies below as well:
We often talk about the importance of passion but did you know that your passion should be evident in any work-related endeavour you undergo? Passion can help push you to do your best while it also makes you feel more motivated to bring your creative ideas forth. Being passionate for your volunteering position can help maximise your potential as it ensures that the people responsible for you will appreciate your commitment while they’ll also perceive you as more trustworthy.
Volunteer Whenever You’re Unemployed
Having to explain an employment gap in your CV is one of the most difficult things you’ll do during a job search, and this is why it’s important to minimise those gaps. Offering your services for free will help you do just that as it’s a pretty straightforward way to continue using your skills while being out of work.
However, in order to ensure that the experience you are adding to your CV is of value, you need to look for opportunities that will allow you to expand on your current skills. So, if, for example, you are an accountant, it’s best to look for opportunities that will allow you to help different organisations with their books.
Inform Management about Your End Goal
Although your primary focus should always be to give back, there’s no harm in helping your career as well, and this is why you should consider talking to the organisation’s management about your goals.
Volunteering should never be a means to an end, but there’s really no harm in using your existing skills to get ahead, and this is what you should communicate to management. Simply tell them that you want to use this opportunity as a chance to grow as a professional and explain to them that you are having a hard time getting a job and that you’re just hoping that your job at the organisation will double as work experience on your CV.
Where to Volunteer
If you are determined to become a non-profit employee, you’ll find that there are lots of opportunities available. However, what you choose to do depends heavily on what you want to achieve through this unpaid work.
If you are a university student, you should consider talking to your university’s career services as there’s a good chance that they’ll have some on-camous opportunities for you which will help you save on commuting expenses as well as time. However, even if they don’t have any on-campus opportunities, they’ll have a few other collaborators that might be able to help you. Keep in mind that talking to your career services professional will help you make a more informed decision as they’ll be able to provide you with more personalised advice.
If you’re a graduate or are simply someone who’s found themselves out of a job all of a sudden, you’ll be happy to learn that there are tons and tons of available positions for eager volunteers throughout the UK. Contact organisations who you believe in and ask them if they have any volunteering needs; there’s a good chance that you’ll be able to offer something to each and every organisation out there, so go with what you believe most in.
Volunteering Opportunities in the UK
#1 Search the Do-It Database
The Do-it Trust, the leading volunteering voice in the UK, is undergoing an effort of modernising volunteering and social action. They offer a variety of platforms, including a super-hub for professional skills-based volunteering that allows professionals to offer their expertise to people in need. To find an opportunity through the Do-it Trust, all you have to do is enter your city and postcode, and their search button will return results based on proximity. You can also use their advanced search options which allow you to enter your availability, interests and skills to receive more personalised results.
#2 Contact Your Nearest NCVO Volunteer Centre
If you are more comfortable talking to someone about your options in-person, you might want to consider locating your nearest NCVO volunteer centre. These centres are local organisations that provide support to potential and existing volunteers, and they are a great way to find out more about volunteering needs in your community. To locate your nearest centre, you simply need to enter your postcode, and the search engine will generate a map with all the information you need.
#3 Search the CharityJob Database
The CharityJob website doesn’t just offer opportunities for people interested in unpaid work but it also includes vacancies within charity organisations, so it’s always a good idea to take a look at what they have available first. They are currently the UK’s largest and busiest website for jobs in the sector, and it seems that their mission to help charities save money in staff recruitment is working out. To search the website, you simply need to enter your postcode or city and select your area of expertise from the dropdown menu.
#4 Go Through the Volunteering Matters Website
Volunteering Matters is more than a just a database; it also offers tips and advice to aspiring and existing non-profit employees. Their mission is to develop and deliver solutions across the UK in order to help with some of the most difficult situations individuals and communities are facing today. The site specialises in opportunities in England but you can also lists opportunities in Wales and Scotland. To search the database, all you need is your postcode, and the website will generate results based on proximity to your area.
#5 Search Reach’s Database
Reach connects charities and non-profits with skilled volunteers as it’s the organisation’s belief that all that charities and non-profit organisations need to flourish are skilled people in key positions. What’s great about this particular website is that it allows you to either search its database by entering your location and area of expertise or simply build your profile and let charities find you.
Volunteering Opportunities Abroad
#1 Check Out Working Abroad
Working Abroad is a UK-based organisation that offers a myriad of projects all over the world. Projects offered are as short or as long-term as you like, while you can also look for programmes that require the specific skills that you possess. To find a project that suits your tastes and appeals to your senses, use their interactive map which flags their currently available projects.
#2 Take a Look at GVI’s Projects
One of the leading voluntary organizations around the world, GVI actually sends over 2,000 volunteers abroad every year. If you are a student, you’ll be happy to know that some of the programmes offered by this organisation contribute towards your university qualifications.
#3 Search for a Project via Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad is an organisation that has been in operation for over 20 years, and during these 20 years, they have sent nearly 100,000 volunteers abroad. They don’t just specialise in students or graduates but, rather, they pride themselves for helping individuals at different career stages find voluntary opportunities abroad.
In order for your volunteering experience to count, you need to ensure that it holds a prominent place on your CV. Depending on how relevant or irrelevant your role as a non-profit employee was to the role you want is, you should write your CV in such a manner that reflects just how valuable the experience was to you.
Essentially, if your role as a volunteer has been directly relevant to your professional experience, then you need to think of it as equivalent and include it in the past experience section. So, if you are planning on writing your work experience in chronological order, then include it in the correct chronological order but you’d do well to flag it up as voluntary work. Remember that you don’t want to hide it, after all, but that you want the hiring manager to acknowledge the fact.
If, on the other hand, the volunteering you’ve done is not relevant to your actual industry or profession, then you are better off not including it in the past experience section. It will only confuse the hiring manager, after all. It’s best that you create a separate category which can be named ‘Community Service’ or ‘Volunteer Work’, and list your unpaid work under there.
Information You Should Include
- The Name of the organisation, title and duration of your placement
- Your duties and responsibilities
- The skills you acquired, and which are relevant to the role for which you are currently applying
- Your accomplishments in the role (for example, if you helped plan a fundraiser, how much you managed to raise, etc)
Apart from everything volunteering can do for your career, it can also help you develop on a personal level. It will teach you to appreciate what you can offer while it will help you view your skills from a different perspective. This will help you become more confident, which is essential for successful job interviews. What’s more, volunteering can also help you get around the no-previous-work-experience issue which might be extremely beneficial, especially if you are a recent graduate who’s never actually been previously employed in a similar role. It can even help you if you you’ve been out of a job for a long time and need to demonstrate some sort of activity in your CV. Of course, you should always keep in mind that there are many benefits to giving back, and if you can afford to do it, there’s really no reason not to.
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