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Gain the edge with volunteer work

Adding some volunteer work to your CV can boost your employment prospects

A guide to volunteering opportunities for school leavers by David Miller

Perhaps you don’t have any prior employment to put on your CV: this is the perfect place to list any voluntary work that you may have done. You can also use the organisation you volunteered for as a reference. This can make you more attractive to a prospective employer and could swing the vote your way over another applicant.

During your formal interview for a job, talking about your experience as a volunteer will allow the interviewer to connect with you and see that there is more to you than just your school qualifications.

Other advantages of being a volunteer

Volunteering can bring many additional benefits. You will gain work experience and meet people from a broad section of the community. Your ability to demonstrate reliability, timekeeping and responsibility will help you when it comes to applying for a job.

Charity organisations often have a handbook of guidelines and rules involving policies on discrimination and harassment which are applicable and commonplace in all workplaces. You will be able to increase your professional contacts and add to your online presence via Linkedin and Facebook.

Additionally, you can gain qualifications such as a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) or Duke of Edinburgh awards. There are many approved activity providers for DofE, for example the British Red Cross and the British Heart Foundation. If you volunteer for St John’s Ambulance you can gain a First Aid Certificate, which is invaluable in everyday life.

Where to volunteer?

There are plenty of opportunities for volunteers. Do you have a passion for a particular cause? There are hundreds of organisations from which to choose. You could volunteer time at a charity shop or hospital, visit a residential home or be a dog walker. Perhaps there is a donkey sanctuary where you could volunteer your time.

Creating or organising a project can demonstrate initiative and show that you are proactive. You could clean up a river or stretch of beach, organise litter-picking or remove graffiti. Could you organise a sponsored bike ride or use your skills to design a website for a local community group? The opportunities are endless. You could even volunteer abroad and see a different part of the world.

Skills required to volunteer

Often the only thing needed to be a volunteer is the willingness to give up your time and to get involved. If you are enthusiastic and positive you will pick up any required skills as you go along.

Of course, you should think carefully before volunteering and you should be realistic about how much time you can commit. You may find that an organisation will give you a ‘taster day’ to see what is involved before you make a full commitment.

Help yourself AND make a difference

Being a volunteer brings many benefits beyond just the CV. Volunteering can be a good way to boost your self-confidence. Sometimes volunteering itself can lead to a job in that industry. Being a volunteer in a hospital can be a stepping stone to a profession in Nursing or Social Work.

Helping out in a charity shop can give you valuable skills in dealing with people. Prospective employers will be able to see that you are a well-rounded human being, quite apart from your good grades. You will be helping others, gaining work experience whilst making a meaningful societal contribution.

About Lynette Daly

Lynette is the publishing editor of Moving On magazine. Moving On is devoted to helping young people make good choices for their future – education, qualifications and careers. Moving On really wants to motivate you! Our articles cover a range of topics to inspire and give ideas. Our magazines are delivered free to all schools, colleges and sixth forms in England and is also available online.

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