Could volunteering unlock the door to your future career?

Friday, 12th May, saw UKCBC’s Holborn campus host a skills and employability conference focused on helping students prepare for life beyond education. One speaker that caught the students’ attention was Poppie Jones from the WE Schools Foundation. Poppie spoke at length about the value of volunteering and how it could provide a way to obtain the experience you need to kick start your career. Here we delve further into the details behind volunteering and its potential impact on gaining employment.

Team London, a volunteering network created by the Office of the Mayor of London, collaborated with recruitment website Indeed to create a report on volunteering and its place in regard to employment. Today we discuss a few key details of the report and see how students can benefit from giving something back to their community.

“A different route to employment”

For Bill Richards, UK Managing Director at Indeed, volunteering offers a different “route into employment”. Companies and recruitment agencies are increasingly looking for individuals that have shown the “relevant passion and enthusiasm that align with company culture,” as opposed to looking to fill a position by simply ticking particular skills boxes. Bill continues on to talk about how volunteering offers a great avenue through which one can develop new skills that could be vital for advancing into a professional position.

In the report, Veronica Wadley, Senior Advisor to the Mayor of London, expresses a similarly positive attitude towards voluntary work: “Volunteering is helping young people develop the skills they need to secure paid employment”. It’s worth real consideration if you want to rise above the competition, whilst helping some very worthwhile projects.

Don’t stay quiet – tell employers about your experience

Surprisingly, although half the participants of the report had volunteered, around one-third had never mentioned the experience on their CV. The skills gained through volunteering can often seem unrelated to a professional position you apply for. However, as the report shows (page 6), it highlights personal attributes about the candidate that go beyond academic achievements. It speaks volumes of a candidate’s commitment; however, getting the right message across regarding the skills gained whilst volunteering can be challenging for job applicants.

Match tasks with skills

The report found that many young people often focus on the tasks they carried out when talking about volunteering in an interview, instead of concentrating on the skills gained and how those skills relate to the position they’re interviewing for. In the report, Katerina Rudiger, Chief Community Officer, CIPD, mentions that young people often completely fail to highlight their work experience unless they’re given the explicit opportunity to do so. The voluntary experience may be just as important as the paid work experience you’ve obtained or, as in some cases, it might be more relevant.

Be proud!

The message is clear: be proud of your voluntary experience, and be sure to connect the skills you developed with the job you’re applying for. The report goes on to highlight that employers value candidates with voluntary experience and presume skills such as communication, self-motivation and confidence would have been gained from the work. An astonishing 51% of decision makers surveyed considered volunteering experience as the deciding factor between two similar candidates. Volunteering could be the point of difference that makes you stand out from the other applicants.

So get out into the community and start helping. Try to pick a voluntary position that allows you to develop skills that will be useful in the future, and be sure to take as much from the experience as possible. Every day could provide new learning challenges that will help you differentiate yourself from other candidates.

For more information on volunteering in and around the London area, visit Team London, for further afield check out WE Schools, and for positions across the UK, take a look at Do-It.

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