Do you ever see a great job vacancy but worry that your skills don’t match? Or dream about a change in career, but tell yourself you haven’t enough experience to make the leap?
Volunteering is a great way to brush up your skills or re-train – and it needn’t cost you a penny. If you’ve been out of work a while, or simply need a change of direction, voluntary work can be the perfect way to build up your confidence and even be the stepping stone to a job you really want.
“Volunteering is fantastic for personal development!” says Hannah Mitchell of youth volunteering charity, vInspired. “We get so many people through our books who go on to interesting jobs. It’s really rewarding to see the change in our volunteers after just a few weeks, especially if they’re helping a cause they really care about.”
One person who found his true vocation after volunteering is Scott Harrison of Charity: Water. Depressed and fed up after ten years working as a nightclub promoter, Scott found a voluntary role with Mercy Ships, a charity that provides floating hospitals to the poorest parts of Africa. His job was to take photographs of people who had severe facial tumours, many caused by unclean drinking water. When he returned home, he found a new direction:
“I was broke but my heart was on fire. I knew this was what I was going to do for the rest of my life…I wanted to do two things before I died: I wanted to make sure everyone on earth had fresh drinking water, and I wanted to do something that my friends, other thirty year olds, could relate to.”
Scott set up Charity: Water in 2006 and has since raised over $50 million to help fund wells and sanitation all over the world.
Volunteering can be as high profile or low key as you want it to be. You may decide you want to travel overseas like Scott. Or you may find that being on the PTA committee at your local school is enough.
“There are voluntary roles to suit everyone”, says Hannah. “From running traditional fundraising activities to providing strategic advice as a trustee. You can find a volunteering opportunity to extend your skills, make new contacts or gain work experience in a different sector.”
If you’d like to volunteer, here’s Hannah’s advice:
1. Do something you enjoy – when you’re giving your time for free it’s easier to motivate yourself for a cause or issue you feel passionate about.
2. Be clear about the skills to have to offer and those you want to gain so you find the right opportunity and the right organisation for you.
3. Be proactive about finding the right volunteering opportunity – they won’t always be advertised – especially if you’re looking for a high skilled opportunity. If you see an organisation you’d like to work with, phone up, find out more about them, and ask exactly where they need help.
4. Think beyond traditional volunteering opportunities. Many charities, particularly smaller local charities, would welcome coaching, mentoring or consultancy around a specific skills/area of expertise to support their wider work.
5. Be clear about the amount of time and commitment you can make to support the cause – this helps manage expectations on both sides.
Hopefully you’ve been inspired to find a voluntary role that will work for you! Here are the current voluntary part time jobs available with Timewise Jobs. And here are five websites that specialise in matching volunteers to vacancies:
Have you used volunteering to improve your skills, or to regain confidence after a long time not in work? Do you have a volunteering success story? If so, we would love to hear from you! Please share your story on our Facebook page, get in touch with us via Twitter or join our Power Part Time discussion group on LinkedIn.
Photo: The Pink Peppercorn