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Do it for your career

Wednesday 15 April 2009 Volunteering Advice

A degree alone is no longer a ticket to the job of your dreams. In an increasingly competitive market employers are looking for something extra. A spot of voluntary work could do the trick.

‘To be able to show that you give your time to work in a different environment will reflect well with employers, as it shows commitment,’ explains John Allen, Volunteer Coordinator at the University of Manchester.

Whatever time you can give there will be a volunteering project out there for you. From building schools in Africa to helping the homeless the range of opportunities available both in the UK and abroad are unlimited.

Rewarding work

Not only does volunteering give you skills and experiences to enhance your CV, it can also be personally rewarding, which could be why there are already 22 million volunteers in England.

‘On a personal level it can be a whole range of things, anything from improving management and leadership skills to confidence and social skills, depending on what area of personal development you want to improve upon,’ says John.

Volunteering England is the national volunteering development agency. As well as catering for the whole of England they have a student volunteer team, working with students from both further and higher education.

Head of Student Volunteering, Andrea Rannard suggests that as unemployment rises people will want to move into new careers and will consider improving on their skills as well as gaining new ones.

‘Volunteering can provide access to paid positions, and research shows it provides opportunities to develop and enhance skills, filling CV gaps with positions that demonstrate an enterprising and rewarding use of time,’ says Andrea.

Student experience

Emily Booth a second-year economic and social history student at the University of Manchester is part of the Manchester Leadership Programme. This has a focus on voluntary work and to pass the course you have to complete sixty hours of volunteering.

‘One of the main things I have volunteered for is Outreach, a project which is run by Student Action. Its focus is helping the homeless in Manchester city centre. It involves handing out sandwiches and hot drinks along with blankets and warm clothing.

‘I enjoy this project and it only takes two or three hours out of your night and you don’t have to be committed to do it every week. As a consequence I have a sense that my action has directly benefited people.’

Hannah Blenkhorn a second-year cognitive neuroscience and psychology student has, among other things, volunteered as a teaching assistant and a mentor for Reachout.

‘I gain great life experience while also getting to help out the community. Working with children is particularly valuable to me as I want to be an educational psychologist. Getting a good degree is not enough and volunteering is a great way to not only help other people, but to give you that edge on an application form,’ explains Hannah.

Try before you buy

If you’re undecided about your career, volunteering is a good way to help you make up your mind. It allows you to experience a variety of areas and gives you more information to decide whether that career is right for you.

‘I think most people will be surprised by the amount they will get out of volunteering at the same time as making a difference in the community they live in,’ says John.