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Volunteering and how it can support your career

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Published: 21 May 2020

University of Sunderland in London students at the Santander Enterprise Event

There are many reasons why volunteering can be a great use of your time. Of course, you’ll be making a contribution to a charity or not-for-profit organisation. But it’s also a chance to learn new skills and get experience. Alice Mcdougall, Careers, Employability and Enterprise Manager at the University of Sunderland in London gives her advice for finding the right volunteering for you.

You can use it to work on your English language and build your confidence, and you’ll meet lots of new people as well. On top of all of that, you’ll be able to add your experience to your CV and in a few cases, it might even lead to paid work.

Volunteering can be a useful starting point, whether you haven’t got much work experience, you want to change your career path or you’ve been out of work for a while. How to find the right volunteer role can be tricky. Take a look at our advice below for some guidance.

Advice for finding volunteer roles:

  • Volunteering should be for a charity, a non-profit making organisation or a community project or organisation. Businesses should not offer ‘voluntary work’.
  • Volunteering is not an internship - which is usually paid - and should not be a full-time position. Charitable organisations often pay for reasonable travel expenses and food.
  • Think about what you want to achieve from volunteer work. Do have skills to offer or are there skills you want to develop? Is there a specific experience you want to gain?
  • You should know that not all voluntary work is going to give you useful experience. Look for roles that will help you get the specific skills and experience you’re looking for. Some areas to look into include office administration, digital marketing, web development and accounts - you might need to have some existing knowledge for some of these roles.
  • Think through what you’re passionate about. Do you want to work in education, the environment or the arts? Voluntary work can include a lot of exciting opportunities and often more valuable experience than a lot of casual part-time jobs.
  • Be realistic about the amount of time you’ll have to volunteer. You could work for just an hour or two a week, or make a longer commitment. Remember, a few hours voluntary work might not seem like a lot, but it will add up over a term or academic year and you’ll have something impressive to put on your CV.

Finally, although a lot of opportunities are currently on hold, there is a number of virtual voluntary work available and it’s always worth taking this time to plan for your future.

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