How Volunteering Can Give You That Vital Edge
Byline: by Linda Whitney
HAVING trouble finding the job you want? Why not volunteer your way into the career of your dreams? 'Volunteering is a good way to gain work experience for new graduates, anyone out of work and career-changers,' says Emma Bowers, a careers coach with the Careers Advice Service.
First, work out what you want to gain from it. Find a volunteer placement you are enthusiastic about that also helps you fill any skills gaps.
Unless you aim to work for the organisation you are volunteering with, remember that you still need time for job-hunting.
Mike Dauncey, of online jobs board www.tiptopjob.com, says: 'Find a position that will enable you to stretch your skills and gain new experiences useful to a future boss, but allows you the flexibility to go to interviews and pursue job opportunities at the same time.' Look for voluntary positions at www.volunteering.org.uk, which offers advice on how to find opportunities in sectors including animal welfare, sport, conservation, young people and campaigns. It also lists local volunteer centres where you can discuss what you want to do and get advice. Some, such as the Hammersmith and Fulham centre, run schemes to help people get back into work.
Alternatively, register with Timebank (www.timebank.org.uk), which will match your interests and skills to local volunteering opportunities, or visit www.do-it.org.uk.
Treat applications for voluntary work like job interviews. In some sectors, such as animal welfare, opportunities are over-subscribed.
'We are seeing a huge increase in the number of people inquiring about voluntary work at present,'
says Mike Locke of Volunteering England. Some organisations look for particular skills, such as bookkeeping, but others accept allcomers.
Don't forget that volunteering also offers the chance to develop 'soft skills', such as communication and teamwork.
Nick Barrett, of The Outward Bound Trust charity, says: 'Our courses emphasise the importance of teamwork and help you develop leadership skills that can be very appealing to employers.'
VOLUNTEERING projects that involve raising the money to pay for a period of experience, often abroad, can be expensive, but the work you put in to raise the money can itself be a way of gaining skills and experience. It will boost your CV, as well as being something to talk about at interviews.
Don't imagine volunteering experience limits you to jobs in the not-for-profit sector, either. …