DGHE & Coronavirus

Volunteering and how it can really help you to secure a paid role

Jul 10, 2020 | Students Career Progression


Dear students,

For today’s Careers Blog I am going to be discussing volunteering.  There are many reasons for volunteering, especially in the current economic climate, where finding employment is more challenging.  Volunteering can greatly enhance your CV and give you the skills you need to put your application above that of other applicants.

Volunteering can also enable you to:

  1. Develop your skills and get experience in a new environment
  2. Bridge the transition back into work after a break
  3. Make new contacts and develop your networking skills

Firstly, you need to be clear why you want to volunteer:

  • Are you looking for work experience to start or change your career?
  • Do you want to develop specific skills?
  • Do you want to pass your skills and experience on to others?
  • Are you passionate about supporting a particular cause?

Then you need to identify what you can offer the employer.  Do you have a specific skill you can share with others?  What specific qualities can you offer?  For example, do you have a creative approach to solving problems?  Or the ability to relate to others and empathise with them and their situation? 

Then crucially – decide what you can commit to.  How much time have you got to offer around your existing commitments?  Do you need to cover your basic expenses for you to get involved?  How far are you able and prepared to travel to undertake the work?  Your reliability and commitment to the organisation you work for is crucial as people are relying on you and expect that you will take your responsibilities as an unpaid worker seriously. Consider if a one-off event or short-term project (micro-volunteering) would suit your circumstances better.  If you’re claiming benefits, find out if and how volunteering may affect them

Useful links:

To find volunteering opportunities

Try a range of resources and different approaches to help you find an opportunity which suits you.

Look for advertised opportunities

There are many sites and organisations that promote volunteering vacancies. You can focus on opportunities in your location, or if you need flexibility, or if travel is a constraint, there are some organisations that offer volunteering from home.

Here are some websites for you to try…

Search for voluntary opportunities by location, your availability and preferred type of activity. Includes home-based opportunities.

Find local volunteer centres in England.

Find opportunities to support local communities

Find home-based, UK and international volunteer positions

You can also search for volunteer programmes and schemes that combine volunteering with conservation projects, focus on social issues or travel. There may be some costs involved for you, so make certain you are aware exactly what the costs are and what you are paying for before you commit to an opportunity.  Here are some example organisations to get you started:

Find a volunteer opportunity.

Search for volunteering opportunities.

Search for opportunities in Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Find projects for skilled volunteers based across the globe.

Find overseas projects and opportunities to get involved with.

Network to find opportunities and apply speculatively

Not all volunteering opportunities are advertised. If there are particular types of experience you’re looking for and need inspiration or contacts, ask family, friends, and colleagues. Use your networking skills both face-to-face and online to find new contacts. It can also be useful to contact organisations directly to offer your services. Charity Choice provides ideas for organisations to approach across the UK.

Create your own volunteering opportunity

If you can’t find the right opportunity for you, consider creating it for yourself; for example, if you’re interested in helping others and there's a need in your community, could you set up a support group?

Offers further information on creating your own opportunities.

Has advice on how you can set up a volunteer scheme.

Applying for volunteering positions

  • Treat the application process in the same way as applying for a paid job. The process can include completing an application form or CV and covering letter. It may also be followed by an interview.
  • If you’re applying speculatively to an organisation or for a particular role, explain in a covering letter why you want to volunteer, what experience you’re looking for and what you have to offer, and include a copy of your CV.
  • There will be some volunteer roles where you will need to go through checks with the Disclosure and Barring Service.

Show your volunteering experience on CVs and job applications

Whilst you are volunteering, keep a record of what you are doing, including:

the skills you’re developing

tasks and projects you’re involved in

results and outcomes you achieved

list any training you’re receiving

  • Think about how you will show this experience on your CV, on application forms or during interviews. Also think about how your experience will relate to your future career plans.
  • Make sure to highlight what you have gained from your volunteering that’s particularly relevant to the job role you’re applying for. 

I can help you with all of the above and any other career related matter, just contact me on a.kinloch@dghe.ac.uk