Voluntary work takes many forms, from travelling around the world with an international organisation to helping out in the office of a charity down the road. Motivations for volunteering are also varied – students may be required to undertake a work placement, while others volunteer for the personal satisfaction of helping others or staying active. Volunteering can also be a first step to switching careers or, at least, provide an opportunity to reflect on one’s career path. Although the idea of working for free may put some people off, Tom Stevens suggests the payback – both personally and career-wise – can be huge.
1. Boost your CV
Many volunteer to tack experience onto their CV. This can make all the difference if you are just starting your career and lack real-world work experience. Through volunteering, you can gain experience in an industry that genuinely interests you, which will give you both a track record and the motivation to get started on your career. These real experiences will provide examples to talk about in interviews and job applications, giving you an edge over otherwise similarly qualified candidates.
2. Learn new skills
In many cases, whether you are qualified or not doesn’t matter for volunteering. So long as you are keen, listen to instructions and commit yourself, you will be taught countless skills and pick them up as you gain more confidence in your work. You probably won’t even realise just how many skills you will learn; only in hindsight have I realised that, through volunteering with the Avon Wildlife Trust, I now know how to identify many more wild plants and animals, and how to ply once unfamiliar tools like a scythe. As you volunteer, you will find yourself aiding new volunteers, while absorbing skills and life experience from your volunteering comrades.
This is your chance to not only have a glimpse inside your ideal workplace, but to meet, talk to and learn from those who are where you want to be. You can glean useful information about their work and backgrounds, and the career pathway they took to get their job. Establish good relations and you’ll get to know about the industry, discover job openings, and receive advice throughout your career. You may get referees for job applications or even land a job. Over 70% of jobs are said to be filled through networking, so it really is worth getting yourself known.
4. Motivation and inspiration
You haven’t heard back from any job applications except for a rejection, your eyes are sore from filling in every tedious box on every application form, and you’re totally unsure of your next step. Take a break and volunteer; many roles involve exercise and being outdoors, which will destress you and give you a new sense of purpose. You’ll also find satisfaction in donating your time to worthwhile causes and organisations. Through volunteering, you will see how you can be an active force for change by being involved in movements and organisations that you may have admired from afar.
There is a vast wealth of volunteering opportunities in Bristol, and many can be found on Ecojam’s job’s page. Have a look now for a role that suits you and give yourself a chance to connect, reflect and grow.