Volunteering work is something that is somewhat overlooked by a number of students but has its benefits and can be just as rewarding as any other type of work experience while studying.
There are a number of organizations in the UK which actively recruit volunteers as it can benefit both parties involved. The organization will gain someone that is willing to contribute to the workforce bringing ideas and skills from another culture and the as an international student, you will gain valuable experience for your CV.
Volunteer work may be a feasible option especially for students studying degrees that are traditionally hard to gain paid positions for. For example those studying a degree related to nursing or care, it may be ideal as these professions usually require you to be fully qualified before you are able to apply for paid employment.
The recruitment process
The recruitment process will vary depending on the organisation you apply with.
The majority of companies will still require at the minimum a CV or application form, and that you attend an interview. Although the majority of volunteering positions are unpaid, you should still prepare yourself as if you are attending an interview for a paid vacancy.
How is volunteering work going to benefit me
Throughout my experience working with a number of people from various backgrounds there is a misconception that employers don’t take voluntary work as viable experience.
This is untrue and should not discourage you from pursuing this type of work experience as it can be just as beneficial as paid work. I have spoken to employers who actually look more favourably at candidates who have undertaken voluntary work as this communicates to the employer that they have drive, and have gone out of their way to gain skills in an unpaid position. You gain extra points if the voluntary work is in an industry related to your studies.
How to find a voluntary position in the UK
Finding voluntary work in the UK is not a difficult task, what is difficult is deciding which voluntary work you should do, and how to apply for it. Generally most voluntary vacancies are advertised either on the company’s own website or on a job search site. Before you apply you should still do some research on the company beforehand. Some voluntary job search sites are:
Where do I look if there are no voluntary jobs in my target industry
Ok, so you have done your research and targeted the type of voluntary role in your chosen industry. The problem is, you can’t find any organisations in your field willing to take on volunteers on any job search sites. You have identified some organisatons in your industry but they do not mention anything about volunteering on their website. What do you do now?
I have a strong belief that if there are no opportunities in your chosen area, you should create the opportunity for yourself, but how does one do this?
This method can work well for voluntary work but it is also applicable to paid positions as well which is to simply, make direct contact yourself.
The thought of making direct contact to a company to enquire about a position is an alien concept to most. However, I recall working with a student that was seeking voluntary work within the engineering sector but at that time there were no positions available. I advised him to make a list of small to medium sized businesses in his chosen field, identify the person who could help him, and craft a tailored letter addressed to them to enquire about volunteer work.
After sending his letter directly to the right person in a few companies, he eventually received a response from a member of a HR team that was willing to meet him and discuss a voluntary opportunity. Remember, especially with voluntary work, that many companies will welcome the extra help from a volunteer in their business.
Do not expect or demand a salary as this is not the purpose of volunteering. Remember, the purpose is to gain valuable industry experience on your CV which will increase your employability and make you stand out from other recent graduates.
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