How Can Volunteering Improve Wellbeing and Employability?

Experience. Experience. Experience. 

Any job seeker will know one of the things companies value the most is experience. Having the ability to successfully demonstrate the desired competencies set out in the job description is key to securing an interview and, potentially, the job itself. However, without work experience, it is difficult to evidence the criteria outlined in the person specification. This is a particular concern for career changers, as well as students fresh out of school/university. 

Volunteering is extremely significant both on a personal and a professional level. It is an ideal way to enhance your CV as well as supporting valuable causes and giving back to the community. Volunteering has the feel-good factor which can considerably boost wellbeing and increase feelings of happiness and contentment. 

Historically, studies have shown a positive relationship between volunteering and mental health. For those experiencing depression and/or living with anxiety, volunteering can be particularly beneficial. This is because it tests the limits of comfort zones, particularly for those who struggle with lack of confidence. It helps to forge new connections and provides invaluable social interaction, which can lead to new friendships and support networks. Volunteering is a highly rewarding and satisfying pursuit, which provides a sense of purpose and helps to reframe life in a positive way. In some instances, volunteering has been prescribed as part of treatment programmes for people with mental health conditions. People who have undertaken such treatment programmes have experienced positive results with many reporting volunteering supported their recovery. 

Volunteering can also benefit physical health as well as mental health. Some voluntary work requires physical effort, e.g., moving furniture/heavy items, community gardening, sports, and games. Being physically active has a range of benefits on physical health including improving muscle strength, delivering oxygen to the body, boosting the efficiency of the cardiovascular system and losing weight. Exercise and physical activity also benefit mental health. 

In terms of improving employability, volunteering helps in many ways. 

The most significant effect of volunteering is the attainment of new skills and knowledge. Volunteering, in whatever capacity, helps to expand knowledge and teaches new skills. For example, you might be considering moving into marketing as a career. Managing a charity‚Äôs social media activities is a great way to start and can help you to become familiar with a range of marketing techniques and tools, such as scheduling programs and analytics. For people looking to move into the education sector, gaining a position as a volunteer reader or classroom assistant a couple of times a week gives you first-hand experience of working with children and helps you to understand the school/classroom setting better. You will be able to observe lessons being taught, ask teaching staff for advice, look over planning templates and understand daily routines and procedures. You will also be able to gain a deeper understanding of safeguarding, which is a critical part of the education system. 

Volunteering is a valuable opportunity to gain feedback and points for improvement from supervisors and colleagues. Proactivity is key; seek feedback on tasks completed and personal work ethic. Volunteers can then use feedback to improve and develop. Moreover, many organisations are happy to provide references for volunteers to use in job applications. For example, if you are looking to get into teaching, ask for feedback on tasks you complete, e.g. marking, sorting reading books and providing general classroom assistance. If you get the opportunity to work 1:1 with children or with small groups, seek feedback on the way you engaged with the children and the support you were able to offer. It is a valuable opportunity to improve and develop. 

Establishing routine is key for any professional. Routine is needed to ensure punctuality, organisation and readiness for the day ahead. Getting into the habit of building a routine during voluntary work is fantastic preparation for a career in all sectors. Moreover, punctuality and organisation are key to a positive and happy volunteering experience. 

As well as the positive impact the social interaction involved in volunteering can have on mental health and wellbeing, building relationships and forging new connections gives the potential for gaining valuable contacts. Contacts can provide information on job vacancies and internships when they become available. Professional contacts are also invaluable for sharing up-to-date industry specific news and legislation, as well as supporting the attainment of necessary skills, experience and qualifications. 

Where can I find voluntary work?

Direct communication: Sometimes it is most effective to approach companies/institutions you are interested in directly. Telephone calls are a quick and easy method of reaching out, but informative and professional emails are also effective. Explain who you are, why you are contacting them and why you are interested in them specifically. Detail your qualifications and previous experience in a professional, clear and concise CV. 

Job boards: There are a variety of job sites that advertise voluntary opportunities. A quick search on various job boards will reveal a range of voluntary opportunities in all corners of the country, both remote and on-site.

Voluntary schemes: Local councils, charities and organisations often run voluntary schemes. For example, Kent County Council recently launched their Reconnect programme, which Kent-Teach are proud to support. Reconnect is a community centred scheme launched following the disruption of Covid-19. It is designed to get young people back into activities and opportunities that were lost due to the pandemic. It is also an ideal opportunity to children to try something new. We are proud to be supporting this scheme and, on our website, you can register your interest in supporting the cause

Charity websites: Charities all over the United Kingdom require volunteers to help and support them. Many charities will have information on their website detailing voluntary opportunities available with details on how to apply. It is quick and easy to run a quick internet search on charities you are interested in and visit their websites.

If you are seeking further advice on launching your career and improving the success of your job search, our blog How To Optimise Your Job Search Process - Top Tips For A Successful Job Search contains top tips to support you. 

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