How Voluntary Work Can Boost Your Career

While all volunteers want to make a difference with their work, some are also looking to gain experience and opportunities to find full time jobs. Below Barry Magennis outlines how volunteering helps boost your career, so you can better understand the goals of your volunteers and, perhaps, help boost your own career as well.

Guest post by Barry Magennis

Volunteering can help boost your career
A volunteer with Making Music Matters teaches a student "Jingle Bells" to perform at her school pageant.

Since the economic downturn four years ago, job losses and redundancies have rarely been out of the news. For those who find themselves in this position, finding new employment can be an uphill struggle, especially when some places get dozens of applicants for every vacancy.

While some continue to pursue job vacancies within their areas of expertise, others have seen it as an opportunity to re-train and find work doing something new.

Heading back to college is certainly one option, and some may find positions accompanied by on-the-job training. But one area that is often overlooked is the voluntary sector and the potential it offers those looking to boost their CVs.

Ok, so the prospect of unpaid work is not ideal, especially with household budgets being squeezed by rising inflation and government cuts. But if you can support yourself for a period while you take on voluntary work, the benefits can be many and should pay dividends when it comes to finding a new job.

Benefit 1: Learn new or improve your career skills

Whether you are looking to change careers or add new skills to your CV, voluntary work will help you to gain experience and learn new skills. These can include things like teamwork, project management and planning, communication, organization and problem solving, all important skills in the modern workplace. Many people have found they gain much needed confidence in these skills once they have honed them in a voluntary position before seeking paid employment.

Benefit 2: Try new careers without commitment

One of the biggest benefits to voluntary work is the option to try out new roles without the need to commit long term. You may want to change career direction completely or gain experience in a new role connected to the industry you were previously employed in. For instance you may want to move into the retail sector, so volunteering in a charity shop could give key experience in retail management and customer service.

Benefit 3: Voluntary work is perfect for networking

As well as giving you new found skills, voluntary work can help you build a network of contacts who could potentially give you work in the future. This may also lead to further training, internships and professional affiliations, all of which will boost your employment prospects. Some have also had the good fortune to be offered a paid role within the voluntary organisation they joined.

Benefit 4: Volunteering can help improve confidence and motivation

While it may sound corny to say it, volunteering really can help improve your sense of well being. Losing a job can be demoralising and for some there comes a fear that they may never find work again. Volunteering helps to put people back into a workplace environment, in contact with like-minded people, and give a sense of optimism for the future.

Voluntary work may not suit everyone, but what should be remembered is that organizations will always have room for additional help, be it full time or part time, short term or long.

Organizations exist across hundreds of different work sectors, meaning there is huge potential to find a role within an industry that suits you. Some organizations also operate within different sectors, for instance Oxfam jobs could see you working in a charity shop or overseas on aid projects. Or look locally for charities and agencies who need help on a voluntary basis. This could be work within a care home or hostel, animal shelter or a community based project.

Barry Magennis blogs about jobs in media, charity work and volunteering.