1. Why do volunteer work?
Find out the reasons why doing volunteer work can greatly increase your chances of getting the job you want.
So why would you volunteer?
There are so many reasons! Through volunteering you can:
Try out new types of work
- make a difference to people’s lives in your community
- get experience that looks good on your CV
- learn new skills that could lead to a new job
- get training and qualifications – some volunteer organisations offer this
- network – make contacts that could lead to offers of paid work
- get references to use in job applications
- meet new people
- get satisfaction from doing something useful!
What can I do?
There’s a huge range of volunteering opportunities. These are just a few examples of activities you could do:
- environmental conservation
- supporting people with learning disabilities, mental health problems or physical disabilities
- taking care of sick animals
- running community arts programmes
- supporting young people or older people
- helping homeless people
- befriending isolated or lonely people.
Volunteer for a new job!
Volunteering experience impresses employers. It shows you’re a positive, motivated person and you use your time constructively.
In order to get into some jobs employers will expect you to have done some volunteering – for example environmental conservation, the media and social work. Volunteering gives you essential hands-on experience and shows you’re committed to this area of work.
If you’ve been out of the workplace for a while, through volunteering you can also learn valuable transferable skills like team-working, communication skills and time management.
You’ve only got to read the Qualifications and Experience sections in these most job profiles to see how volunteering can help you get into a huge range of jobs.
Anyone can volunteer – whether you’re young or old, at the start or the end of your career, working or not working. No matter what your skills or experience, someone will value your help.
2. How to get volunteer work
Decided to add some weight to your C.V?.
Where can I find volunteering opportunities?
You can find your local Volunteer Centre on the Volunteering England website. Volunteer Centres can put you in touch with local organisations that do the kind of work you want to do.
If you want to volunteer overseas you could check out these websites:
- Worldwide Volunteering
- Voluntary Service Overseas
You can get more info about volunteering from these organisations:
- National Council for Work Experience
- Student Volunteering England
- Volunteer Development Agency (Northern Ireland)
- Volunteer Development Scotland
- Wales Council for Voluntary Action
- National Council for Voluntary Organisations
What do I need to know before I accept an offer of volunteering?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Find out as much as you can about the volunteering opportunity before committing to it. You want to make sure you get what you want out of it, so tell staff what you’re looking for. The more open you are, the more likely you’ll find an opportunity you’re happy with.
You could find out:
- exactly what your role will be
- whether the organisation will pay your expenses (most will)
- whether there is any training or support.
As with a job interview, you should take sensible steps to ensure your safety:
- don’t agree to meet alone in an isolated location
- do carry out further checks if anything makes you suspicious
- don’t accept a lift home
- don’t get drawn into a personal conversation or anything that makes you feel uncomfortable.
3. Volunteer work F.A.Q’s
If you’re new to volunteering, you might have some questions on how it all works. Here we answer some of those common questions.
I’m unemployed – will volunteering affect my benefits?
You can do as much volunteering as you like and still claim benefits. Also, if you claim expenses for lunch it won’t be taken out of your benefits. However, if you’re claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance you’ll still be expected to look for paid work and attend interviews.
What if I’m too busy to volunteer?
Some volunteering opportunities only require a couple of hours a month of commitment. Even if you work full-time and have a busy schedule you should be able to find something to suit you.
Are there any age limits on volunteering?
No, but for insurance reasons sometimes there can be difficulties for young people under 16 or people over 65.
Will I be out of pocket?
Most of the time you will get your out-of-pocket expenses paid, such as travel, food and equipment.
Even though you’re not earning a wage, don’t forget volunteering can lead to a paid job. If you’re enthusiastic, work hard and get your face known you’re sure to be in with a chance when paid jobs come up.
No volunteer organisation in my area is doing the work I want to do
Why not set up your own organisation? That’s how existing volunteer organisations started up – by people with the passion, commitment and vision to make it happen.
You could be inspired into action by anything from the closure of a local school to the lack of a support network for young mothers. Whatever the cause is, a volunteer group can make a difference.
But before leaping straight into it, do a bit of research. Make sure no-one else is already doing the work you want to do. Contact relevant people from the council to see if there’s anyone who can help you get started.
What if I volunteer and don’t like it?
As a volunteer you can leave whenever you like if you’re not enjoying it. However, if you’re not getting what you want out of it, it might be a good idea to talk it through first with someone in your volunteer organisation. They might be able to suggest something else that would suit you.
It’s polite to give the volunteer organisation a decent amount of notice (a couple of weeks at least) so they can make arrangements for when you’re gone.
What volunteering options do I have if I’ve got disabilities?
Many volunteer organisations will try to get you get the support you need. If you need support, be clear about this from the start so they can make the necessary arrangements.
Of course you don’t necessarily need to volunteer for a disabled organisation; your skills and experience will be useful in any organisation.
What’s a typical day like as a volunteer?
There is no typical day! You only need to look at the range of volunteering opportunities to see that every one is different. You could be helping to produce a TV programme or be out in the woods planting trees. It depends on what you’re interested in!
Your volunteering experience will depend on what type of opportunity you go for. You could volunteer full-time, part-time or for just a few hours a month. You could also live away from home, by going on a working holiday or staying at a work camp.
However, with most volunteering opportunities you’ll find:
- Friendly and enthusiastic permanent staff and volunteers
- You usually get given responsibility early, so you’ll get something to get your teeth into
- You get to see your work making a real difference in the community
- Many volunteering organisations are small, and need people who can do many things – so you’ll
- Get experience in many different types of work.