Volunteering – an essential professional skill
It’s Volunteers Week, which is a week I always really enjoy (and usually shed an impassioned and grateful tear whilst reading and listening about the impact volunteers make). All over the UK, Volunteers Week is an opportunity for non-profits to shout loudly about the contribution volunteers make to the country and inspire us all to get involved to help a good cause. And, have loads of parties, mainly with specialised cakes that say ‘thank you’ in the charity branding. Love it, I tell you, I LOVE IT!
I volunteer for a few organisations. I get an immense sense of satisfaction from doing it - I am inquisitive and love meeting people and my volunteering roles tend to all be about networking and signposting. But ultimately, I just love helping people. I know it sounds cheesy and it’s pretty much what all volunteers say, but that is the truth of the matter.
With the joys of volunteering being so high profile this week, its got me thinking about how surprised I am when I get CVs that have limited and/or no recent volunteering experience on them. Getting yourself a decent volunteering role is hugely beneficial for a load of skills such as project management, leadership skills, communication, teamwork etc etc. There is so much proof and research out there on this, just google it.
But what really interests me is the exposure you get to become a more knowledgeable, social and emotionally intelligent person. It’s an opportunity to step out of the bubble you exist in your daily life and routine. For example, frequently when you’re volunteering, you’re operating within interesting boundaries. You could be a highly influential person within your work setting but your volunteering role requires no such hierarchical respect and therefore you have to work out how to earn respect in a different way. You could be a volunteer amongst paid-for members of staff – how do you navigate your way through that?
You see, for me, when I’m hunting for people on behalf of charities, the volunteering they do is often an area of great interest because it can show me plenty about the character of the person. Both in terms of what the volunteering is and how the person speaks about it.
So if you are looking for new career opportunities within the non-profit sector, I’d certainly reflect on your volunteering experiences and have a think about whether you are meeting your potential there.
Here are some ideas and thoughts to consider:
1. Get that extra spring in your step by volunteering on something that really seriously motivates you. Giving back can be an energising boost to your self-worth and confidence, which is super helpful at interviews
2. Reflect on the fact that volunteering is a choice that YOU have made. It’s what you do in your own time, not because it was in your JD. It says a lot about you as a person, and what makes you different from all the competition.
3. When looking for volunteering opportunities, treat the search as if you are looking for a paid job. Set yourself some goals about what you want to achieve, how much time you can commit, as well as thinking about the type of organisations that inspire you.
4. You never know who you'll meet when volunteering, it’s a great networking opportunity
5. Supercharge your existing skills. Ensure your volunteering is developing an area that you want to highlight to potential employers
6. On your CV/application forms, don’t say ‘Volunteer Role’, instead specify and say, for example, ‘Special Events Volunteer’, ‘Social Media Volunteer’, ‘Office Administrator Volunteer’ etc.
If you’ve any further advice on volunteering and how it can help career progression, please share below. And certainly don’t hesitate in retweeting photos of your Volunteer’s Week celebration cakes - @GammaTalent
Thanks for reading,