It has recently been reported that during the Covid-19 pandemic, this country experienced a ‘Volunteering Boom’. 12 million adults in the UK offered their services during the last year, a third for the first time.
“Volunteering is something you can do alongside university, part-time or full-time work. It can be anything from an hour or so a month to a few hours a week. There are so many volunteer activities to get involved in and it can be a way to either learn new skills, develop existing ones or give back by using existing expertise.
“Volunteering can help you meet people in your local area and connect you with professionals in a number of different fields. It can be an excellent networking tool. I actually met someone I later started a business with through my time volunteering!
“There are a number of ways people can use their skills when volunteering such providing advice and guidance, construction/hands-on help, event planning, strategy, marketing, financial, health and safety/risk, press/writing, legal, mentoring, construction, recruitment and HR, to name but a few.
“Personally I have volunteered throughout my working life. During my last year of university, I volunteered as an adviser at the Citizens Advice Bureau which gave the interview, communication and administrative skills to land my first graduate role. At the time it also gave me the confidence I lacked to speak with people on the telephone and write professional emails. I have since learned IT skills through volunteering with a charity creating their social media and website, which again helped me gain a marketing job role.
“I am currently volunteering with a local community group where I can utilise my contacts and experience to help regenerate the town I live in, for example through the creation of a business hub and tourism initiatives. Each of these roles has allowed me to support causes I am passionate about whilst also developing my skillset and my CV. For example, I never thought I would be someone who would be interested in coding or be able to create an app! For me being a trustee also allows me to demonstrate management skills and direct contribution to policy and strategy as well as the ability to be really creative.
“Volunteering can be a great way of filling any gaps on a CV and can provide an entry into a paid role by giving you the skills or insight into the sector that can be talked about at interview. This can be helpful for example when giving evidence of how you would engage with a particular client group or help you to understand the current trends and policies in a particular sector. (STAR examples- situation, action, task, result) A good organisation will provide access to training and potentially certificates.
“Volunteering also shows your commitment and dedication as well as your passion- it highlights a lot of positive personal characteristics to employers.”
Gemma Witts is a lecturer in Careers and Employability at Kent Business School.