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The benefits of volunteering

Friday 29 May 2009 Volunteering Advice

As well as helping others in need, a spot of volunteering can help you and your career prospects.

Spotlight on a volunteer

Curatorial student Kate Pennington Wilson gives up her own time to lend a hand at a Birmingham art gallery. In return she gets some much needed work experience.

"I work one to two days a week at the International Project Space (IPS), a contemporary art gallery based on Bournville School of Art Campus in Birmingham, increasing my hours during installation periods to help with the preparation of exhibitions.

"IPS is a publicly funded gallery hosting international, national and regional projects through a programme of residencies, exhibitions and conferences. It is a key resource for students and staff at the university, as well as the wider art community of Birmingham and beyond."

Volunteering your time for an organisation like this is a valuable opportunity for students to themselves, make friends, and change lives. Additionally it’s a great way to make contacts, boost your CV and enrich your experience at university.

Skills required

Recent research by the Institute of Volunteering Research has revealed that 87 per cent of local volunteer centres have seen a rise in enquiries and three-quarters see people looking to improve their employability.

Whether it is team-working, leadership or accountability, there are few better ways of gaining the skills that employers require than volunteering.
As a Graduate you’ll need to stand out from the crowd. A placement with a charity or non-profit organisation may afford you the chance to take on greater responsibility.

"As the Curator is based in London and commutes to Birmingham two days a week I am left with the day to day running of the gallery along with any specific tasks set for me," says Kate.

Opportunities

As well as looking good on application forms, volunteering might help you get your foot in the door to your chosen career.

"By September I will have worked for the International Project Space for a year and hope this will increase my chances of paid employment. Most paid gallery assistant posts require at least one to two years gallery based experience," Kate adds.

Work placements are crucial if you’re serious about a career. Employers view work experience as seriously as your degree result. Through volunteering you can demonstrate that you have the attributes they are looking for and, for the under-experienced, it provides an opportunity learn new skills and show your determination.

There are countless organisations crying out for unpaid volunteers so use the opportunity to get some free experience, improve your CV and, on top of all that, go home with the glow in your heart that you only get from doing something good.

Further information:

Find out more about National Volunteering Week and how you can get invoved.