Not only is volunteering a great way to help improve the lives of other people, it can also be a great way to get you started in the career of your choice. There’s a common misconception that volunteering is reserved for students who want to pursue a career in the charity and non-profit sector.
In actual fact, there’s a whole heap of opportunities that can be gained from volunteering that can lead you into other industries.
For example, did you know that Vodafone, the BBC and Innocent Smoothies are all registered charities in the UK? And who wouldn’t want to work for them!
In this post, we'll guide you through what you need to do to find voluntary work that will help you in your career.
Decide on your Long-Term Career Goals
Okay, so here’s the million dollar question:
What career do you want to have when you leave school?
If only you had £1 for every time a teacher/parent/friend asked you this, right?
We know it's a tough question, but in order to make the most of a volunteering opportunity, you need to have a general idea of what you’d like to do career-wise. Having a focus on a particular job market will enable you to decide which volunteering organisations and registered charities to approach.
Changing career goals
Of course, your career goals will probably change in the future and people change careers all the time nowadays, but having a particular industry in mind to begin with is the first step towards finding a useful volunteering placement.
Consider How Volunteering Will Tie in With your Career
How can volunteering help?
Once you have a particular industry in mind that you’d like to work in, the next step is to think about how volunteering will tie in with specific roles.
For example, let’s say that you want to pursue a career in advertising, marketing or public relations. Trying to find a job in these competitive industries with few skills and no experience will be challenging to say the least.
However, if you're able to find a volunteering opportunity where you can learn these skills 'on the job', you'll improve your chances of stepping into a career in the future. Because charities and voluntary organisations are not-for-profit, they tend to be more willing to take on volunteers than private companies.
Look for the skills you need
The key to finding a useful volunteering opportunity is to think about the skills you'll need for future job roles. If you're able to find a voluntary organisation where you can get involved and learn industry-related skills, then you'll gain a competitive edge over other people applying to the same jobs as you straight from school.
Gaining skills from volunteering not only gives you first-hand experience of working in a specific role, but it gives you specific examples to write about on your CV.
Make Contact with Local Charities/Non Profit Organisations
Look close to home
In the first instance, the best place to look for volunteering opportunities is close to home. Make a list of all the registered charities in your local area and consider whether they would benefit from the skills that you have to offer.
Pay them a visit
If you find an organisation that would be a good fit for your career goals, pay them a visit rather than sending an email or phoning. There’s something about the personal touch of speaking to someone directly that increases your chances of landing an opportunity.
When you visit the organisation, make sure you’re prepared with what you’re going to say and expect them to ask questions. If you treat the opportunity like a job interview, you’ll appear more professional.
Look for Volunteering Opportunities Online
Extending your search if you can't find anywhere local
If your local area doesn’t have what you’re looking for, the next step is to widen your search online. There are a tonne of useful websites out there that post current volunteering opportunities and list organisations that actively look for assistance.
One of the first places you should look is the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NSVO). They have a Volunteer Centre Finder that you can search using your postcode, then follow the links to your nearest centre. Some other websites that we’d recommend searching include:
Have you ever taken on voluntary work to help your career? How did you find your placement? How did volunteering help you secure a job in your desired industry?