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Returning to STEM
Returning to STEM

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3.3 Expanding your voluntary work

Volunteering can be an ideal strategy for getting a foot in the door. Just as workplace practices are growing in their complexity, job hunters are also finding creative ways of gaining access to specific businesses. As a volunteer or intern, valuable experience can be gained in the workplace so finding the right opportunity is important. Volunteering can boost your confidence, improve social interaction, build identity, create a sense of purpose and enable you to contribute positively to your community.

As a volunteer, you will not usually have a contract with the employer, but many formal volunteering schemes offer a volunteer’s agreement that gives you some rights and lets you know what to expect – these can also indicate training, supervision, support, expenses covered, and so on. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), for example, has information on volunteers’ legal status.

There is also another badged free course from The Open University on this topic: Introducing the voluntary sector [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

STEM Ambassadors and Code Clubs

A good way to get some volunteering experience is to become a STEM Ambassador. Over 25,000 STEM professionals volunteer as STEM Ambassadors. This involves going into schools to help out and talk about STEM subjects and to enrich the learning experience of children encouraging them to take up STEM subjects in school. Similarly, the international network of Code Clubs has been set up to connect schools with local volunteers with IT and programming skills, offering after-school activities for children aged 9 to 13.

These kinds of voluntary activities can be a great stepping stone towards a more formal volunteering placement and can show potential employers that you are committed both to your community and also to sharing your knowledge and skills. It’s also part of your identity work and can help you get back in touch with your previous identity as a STEM professional.