With employers focusing increasingly on ‘soft skills’ (positive character traits and the ability to work with others) and experience it has never been more important to get volunteering.
The variety of volunteering roles available means positions can enhance and provide unique skill sets and whilst helping out at a local charity shop won’t result in academic qualifications, the experience alone can vastly improve your employability.
After volunteering at a local pharmacy, sixth form student Lucy felt much more confident, “Working behind the counter has given me the confidence to speak to strangers, and has taught me how to have a professional relationship with the boss – this has made me feel more mature.”
Although not able to prescribe medicine, Lucy found her pharmaceutical volunteering gave her useful know-how that helped her further her ambition of becoming a doctor.
Similarly, architecture student Sunnah found volunteering with Oxfam increased her confidence, especially when it came to “speaking with customers and making decisions”. Being able to take criticism and praise on board formed a fundamental part of Sunnah’s role. She learnt to process stock (pricing and labelling), stock shelves, assist customers and use the till.
Volunteering builds the skills that work experience placements are just too short to nurture. Long term situations are necessary for honing personal skills, like communicating effectively and maintaining professional relationships.
Charity shops can provide contacts, referees and new friends. It is easy to forget amongst the skill building and learning that volunteering will lead to meeting new people (people outside of school, college or already existing social circles) and can be a really enjoyable experience – working at a charity shop is a rare chance to do something for a good cause.
There are many skills that you can develop through volunteering and it doesn’t have to be about trekking far, far away to work with elephants or the like – you can find some really rewarding volunteering activities right on your door step or even online if getting out and about isn’t an option for you.