Prospects is joining Volunteers Week to celebrate the huge contribution volunteers make to our communities everyday. More than 21 million people volunteer in the UK at least once a year and this contributes an estimated £23.9bn to the UK economy.
This week we will be sharing stories about how volunteering has helped Prospects customers and how it can help if you are hoping to improve your career prospects.
In the first in the series Shanthi Ananth (@SACareersAdvice), National Careers Service Adviser and Prospects colleague, shares how volunteering could help you achieve your career goals.
The word volunteering brings mixed reactions from clients – some are open to it, but often I get the response “Free labour – I don’t think I am happy to do it”. When I explain the enormous benefits of volunteering and suggest that by approaching it as more than just ‘working for free’ that clients are able to understand how it can a be vital link to steer them towards achieving their career goals.
Volunteering can help equip you with important skills that employers look for in potential candidates – from communication skills and team work to managing your time and taking initiative. In certain job roles such as social workers and health trainers employers consider volunteering experience as a prerequisite. According to industry experts, employers often view volunteering as a positive step taken by an individual to widen their life experiences, contribute to the community and build their character and they welcome such individuals who they feel can be an asset to their organisation.
Clients who have been out of work for lengthy periods often talk about their struggle with low confidence; volunteering is a very useful way to improve self-confidence which helps at interviews. It also helps build new networks, helps in keeping skills up to date and brings a discipline in day to day activities. Several charities and non-profit organisations offering volunteering opportunities provide their volunteers with accredited training opportunities which can enhance their CVs and provide excellent conversational material at an interview. Organisations are aware that people can use volunteering as a stepping stone, all they expect is commitment and sincerity towards the role when you are volunteering for them.
To access volunteering opportunities, I recommend websites such as www.do-it.org.uk, www.charity.org.uk, and www.bbc.co.uk/careers/bbc-staff-area/volunteering which offer various volunteering opportunities from retail to management. I also suggest clients directly contact organisations in the non-profit sector and charities to enquire about volunteering work. Your local council may have a volunteer centre – registering at these centres can widen your opportunities.
In today’s competitive job market, applying for a volunteering opportunity could involve similar steps to applying for a paid role including completing an application form or sending your CV and attending an interview etc.
To stand out when applying for a role – paid or otherwise – you need a good CV. A National Careers Service Adviser can help you develop a strong CV. They could also help you complete an application form and assist you in preparing for an interview. They can also help you identify a volunteering role which could be starting point in looking at a new career – or help you consider careers which would suit you. Book a meeting with A National Careers Service Adviser now by visiting the website or calling 0800 100 900.
Read Penelope’s story to find out how volunteering is helping her job search.