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Kickstart Your Half Term with Volunteering; How to Find, Apply & Line Up Some Opportunities!

Posted:
29 March 2022   |   by Explore Careers
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You may have already picked up on it, but around here at Explore Careers, we’re big advocates for the benefits of volunteering!

Not only does it help you start building some superb work-based skills, but it also helps you grow as a person, explore new areas of work, meet new people, and give back to causes you care about in your community – what’s not to love!

With half-term coming up, we wanted to give you a bit more of a lowdown on how to get started with volunteering and where to find the right opportunities for you.

Let’s begin!

Volunteering to Explore a Career or Job Role

Volunteering can offer you the chance to try some job roles or learn more about specific industries and organisations. If this is what you want to aim for, it’s good to start small and grow your skills and experience over time.

Volunteering in this way might involve:

  • Helping out with a specific event or campaign.
  • Regularly giving your time to help out once or twice a week or month in a role aligned with your career choices.
  • Job shadowing and workplace observations in organisations offering the career(s) you’re interested in.

You can find opportunities for these types of roles through:

  • Dedicated volunteering sites.
  • Approaching organisations in your local area and making enquiries.
  • Speaking with family members and your wider network – especially those working where you’d like to – and asking about some job shadowing or spending a day or two learning more with the team.

If you’re looking to get more hands-on experience through volunteering in a specific industry, you’re probably better off waiting until you’re in your final year of school to know a bit more about what you might like to try and commit your time to.

Volunteering for Personal Growth

We know one of the biggest anxieties young people have when entering any form of the workplace for the first time is usually around their confidence!

School tends to focus on teaching you to have the correct answers, and when you enter a new environment where you don’t know anything or very little, it can feel daunting to say, “I’m new here, and I don’t know anything yet!”

Volunteering is a great way to help boost your confidence and develop vital personal skills that will set you up nicely for success in future work opportunities!

Some of these include:

  • Communication – talking to new people and building relationships.
  • Social skills – learning about others from different walks of life.
  • Confidence – finding the power in learning, being the newbie and accepting you’re growing.
  • Resilience – you’ll probably make a mistake or two – and that’s okay! Personal growth is about learning from those mistakes and getting ready to try again.

If you want to use volunteering to grow in this way, look for opportunities that:

  • Are short term – perhaps supporting a one-off event or campaign.
  • Are entry-level – this might simply mean handing out flyers, serving soft drinks, setting up tables or chairs – straightforward stuff you can build on.
  • Group focused – look for opportunities that involve bringing groups of people or other volunteers together so you can maximise all that great personal growth and get exposure to lots of different people.

Volunteering for Skills Growth

Whatever way you look at volunteering, there’s one definite thing – it will help you boost all those lovely employability skills that employers love to see on your resume!

If you feel there are specific skills you want to improve or focus on ready to support future applications, make that a priority when you’re looking for volunteering opportunities to take on.

For example:

  • If you want to boost project and time management skills, look for roles where you’re helping to deliver an event or program of events.
  • If you want to improve your presentation or communication skills, look for roles where you’re actively talking to people, such as reading to small children at your local library or helping run classes at your community centre.
  • If you want to work in hospitality or catering, look for entry opportunities where you can be around food service to help learn about food health, safety and hygiene.

If you want to focus on developing specific skills for a specific career, start by:

  1. Researching the career and potential job roles – look at job ads and see what skills keep coming up.
  2. Think about the activities and tasks that would help you develop these skills (ask a teacher, parent or careers advisor to help!)
  3. Match these activities to volunteer opportunities.

Being strategic in this way will help you set some clearer definitions about the types of work you want to do and give you lots of positive, proactive things to talk about when attending interviews.

3 Things You Must Do Every Time You Volunteer

One of the critical things with volunteering is to start small – don’t make bigger commitments than you’re ready for, especially as you’re still learning what sorts of things you’re most interested in (and have school work to juggle).

One-off events and short-term opportunities will give you lots to think about and help you develop your skills in vibrant ways.

After any volunteering, you complete, make sure you:

  1. Update your resume: Include what you did, who with, how long for, and three key things you helped deliver and/or learned from the opportunity.
  2. Get a reference: Ask whoever you reported to if they would mind writing a short reference for you about how you did that you can use on your resume or send to future work opportunities.
  3. Thank your team: Even when the opportunity is short term, take the time to thank everyone and let them know if they helped you somehow. Thank them for their time and support. Not only is this just good manners, you never know what might come up in the future and making sure you leave people with a positive impression goes a long way.

Find Your Next Volunteering Opportunity

Check out the following websites for more details on where you can find some great opportunities!

You can also ask friends and family members, reach out to local libraries and community centres and speak to your school careers advisor to learn more:

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