This article was written by the Great British Mag content team on 16 March 2021.
Sometimes, by giving just a little, you can get a lot back in return. This couldn’t ring more true for volunteering. There are hundreds of charities and organisations, even your university, that need volunteers to get projects off the ground and to keep worthwhile initiatives going.
You might be thinking that, with your studies and maybe even a part-time job on the go, you’ve already got a lot on your plate. But let us convince you of the benefits of volunteering – it could make all the difference to your career prospects after university.
Here are just some of the things volunteering can do for your employability.
Improve your CV
Employers like to see evidence of practical work experience on your CV – it tells them that you have the soft skills needed to work as part of a team and are able to handle responsibility. Having held down a role is also a good indicator of your work ethic, dedication and capabilities.
So, if the ‘work experience’ section of your CV is looking a little bare, volunteering is a great way to plump it up. Even if the role isn’t super relevant to the job you want after uni, so long as there are transferable skills it will be valuable for your CV, showing prospective employers that you’re proactive and take initiative in your professional development.
And don’t make the mistake of thinking that unpaid work isn’t as important on CVs as salaried jobs – in fact a recent survey found that 73% of leading businesses in the UK said they’d hire candidates with volunteer experience over those without.
Introduce you to new people
If you are volunteering in the sector you want to eventually work in, it will be a great way for you to network with people who have already broken into the field. Use the opportunity to pick their brains, get insider advice and find out about job opportunities. They’d also make great references to refer future employers to.
And besides the potential career benefits of networking, you’ll will make new friends with people who share a similar outlook on life.
Help you develop valuable skills
University prepares you for work academically, but getting hands-on experience is key to really being able to transition into employment smoothly. Lectures and seminars can’t really teach you personal skills like leadership, time management, how to best communicate with colleagues or how to act in a professional manner – which are all valuable to employers. Volunteering can help you develop all of these and plenty more.
Also, to get an idea of how you cope under pressure and approach problem-solving, interviewers love to ask for examples of how you’ve dealt with specific situations at work in the past. Volunteering is a great way to make sure you have something to talk about in those instances and can impress the person on the other side of the table.
Boost your confidence
You’ll experience so many personal benefits from helping the community or lending a hand for a worthwhile project. It can help give you a fresh sense of purpose and make you feel valued. All of this – as well as the practical experience itself – will boost your confidence, meaning you can approach job applications and interviews with renewed courage and belief in yourself.
Give you industry insights
There’s no real way to know exactly what job you want to do without testing the waters first – and volunteering is a great way to do that. With unpaid placements, you’ll get to try out different roles at different types of businesses, so you can learn what you enjoy, what you find most interesting and where your strengths lie, slowly building up a picture of precisely what you want to do after university.
Improve your interview skills
Interviews are nerve-wracking – there’s no two ways about it. So the more practice you can get, the better. Many organisations offering volunteer opportunities take these roles as seriously as when they’re hiring for a paid position, so you might well have to go through a similar application and interview process.
Going into a job interview with previous experience of what to expect and knowledge of the questions that are likely to come up will not only help you to perform better but will also mean those nerves aren’t quite so acute. You’ll feel far calmer and more prepared.
Make you feel good about yourself
Whether you are an eco-warrior, animal lover or enjoy working with children, there are volunteering roles out there which will allow you to make a difference doing what you love. Having something to look forward to each week among your studies can improve your mood and your outlook.
There are hundreds of charities and organisations in the UK that are looking for passionate people to help them further their cause. You can find a voluntary role by registering with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, which supports 15,000 voluntary organisations.