Find out the many benefits of volunteering, how you can do it and where to look for opportunities.
Benefits of volunteering
If you felt you didn’t have much time to explore your options before graduation, volunteering could offer you your first step into the labour market. Whether you’re hoping to network, build your skills, and/or explore what’s out there it is valuable experience to highlight to recruiters.
Meet people and give back
Volunteering lets you get involved in the local community and meet new people. You can give your time to those who need it whilst making new friends and connections You can volunteer for a cause you feel strongly about or find out about something new.
Build experience and skills
You don’t always need relevant experience to volunteer and it can be an excellent way to build practical skills and work on skills such as communication, teamwork, and time management. It can also improve your confidence and self-esteem. Some areas of work will require that you have experience in order to apply for work or further study – some examples include international development, creative arts, teaching and social work – and volunteering is a good way to start.
Get insight into career areas and build your network
If you're considering several different career options, volunteering allows you to gain an insight into what they are like on a day-to-day basis, and what roles suit you. Meeting people within the organisation is a way to build your own personal network.
How can you volunteer?
There are lots of different ways to volunteer. You could be involved in the organisation side in roles such as fundraising, communications, marketing, and administration – or you may prefer to be involved in practically supporting the individuals, or the cause, the organisation supports. This could range from cleaning a park to providing company over meals to an elderly person. In some instances there may also be opportunities to conduct research.
Time commitments can also vary to suit what you have available – some opportunities will require an ongoing commitment but others might be a one-off opportunity such as supporting a charity event.
In the UK
Volunteering centres throughout the UK advise you on finding suitable opportunities.
There are matching agencies which put you in touch with short and long-term volunteering opportunities. Here is an example of one:
Volunteering abroad requires additional planning and preparation. You may choose to volunteer for the duration of a formal gap year or for a shorter period of weeks or months. Use the following sites to start your search.
- Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO)
- International Citizen Service
- Volunteer Abroad
- Global Vision International (GVI)
- International Volunteer HQ
- Volunteer Abroad
Before signing up for anything it is important to research the organisation and what you will actually be doing once you are overseas. Here are some basic questions to ask:
The Responsible Volunteering website has impartial advice on selecting a volunteer placement, including suggested questions to ask volunteer abroad organisations.
Funding and fundraising
It’s usual to pay to take part in an overseas volunteering programme. This is to cover things like accommodation, food, travel within the country and insurance. It makes sense to 'shop around' and find out exactly where your money will be going before you commit.
You may be expected to do some fundraising. Voluntary organisations should be able to provide ideas of ways to do this. How you find the funds to be able to do your placement is part of the whole experience and you will gain a wide range of valuable skills from this exercise alone.