6 Voluntary work and career development
On this course, the focus is primarily on how voluntary work might help you to explore and pursue your preferred career path. Firstly though it is worth considering some of the benefits of volunteering.
- the chance to enhance existing skills and develop new ones, by doing different work than you may have done before
- the experience of working in a new environment
- a way to learn more about yourself, and your abilities, as well as to gain more self-confidence. You may be exposed to issues, situations and people you would not normally encounter
- the potential to gain relevant vocational training which could lead to a recognised qualification. Some charities require you to undergo training which they provide
- developing new contacts and friends
- a real sense of what it is like to do a particular kind of work in an organisation
- the satisfaction of contributing to something which you find worthwhile
- a place to feel valued and respected for your efforts
- gaining experiences which you will be able to use in future job applications.
It is easy to claim that certain benefits are possible, but it is more persuasive to hear from people who have experienced them. For instance, this is what several Open University students who tried out voluntary work had to say about their experiences:
What OU students say
- An inside view
‘I volunteered two days a week for the charity, Action for Sustainable Living. This gave me an inside knowledge of the charity and I built a strong relationship with staff members. When paid roles were made available, I had a clear advantage over other applicants.'
- A boost for the CV
‘I’m a treasurer of a youth football team, which I find very rewarding as well as tiring and time consuming. Trying to fit in my job, my OU course and this voluntary work is really stretching me! I would recommend anyone looking for work experience to try volunteering as a means of adding depth to your CV.’
- A gateway to new roles
‘Although I am now paid, I started my career as a volunteer advocate while working as a computer programmer. This facilitated a change into the world of social care and gave me the disability awareness I needed to change roles.’
(The Open University, 2014)
So, volunteering can be rewarding in many ways but it can also be challenging. However, as with all challenges, overcoming them helps you to acquire the skills and confidence for the future. Just think carefully about what kind of voluntary work is right for you, at this point in your life.
The next section will help you to decide what might suit you.