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The Selfish Volunteer

Last week, I mentioned volunteering as one of the top 5 things to consider when trying to find a job you love, but since almost 13million of us volunteer once a month or more (NCVO, 2012) it really deserves to be looked at in its own right. ‘Trusteeships’ and ‘Volunteering Overseas’ are subjects for separate articles, however: for this week, I’m looking at more generic volunteering.

Motivations for volunteering can range from pure altruism through to a desire to feel useful or part of a community – but I’m more interested in what you, the volunteer, can get out of voluntary work, which is why I’ve called this blog ‘The Selfish Volunteer’.

1.       Keeping Busy

If you’re out of work, nothing says ‘pick me!’ like a CV which demonstrates a serious work ethic. As a recruiter, I much prefer a candidate who can show that they are keeping busy whilst looking for a job, since it implies that their skills are current and that they have the right attitude.

2.       Learning New Skills

You don’t have to do something you already know how to do, as a volunteer.  A classic example is fundraising or event organisation.  If you’re interested in either of these areas but don’t have the experience, most charities would welcome committed volunteers who can help them to generate more funds. However, be prepared to pitch in with the ‘grunt work’.

3.       Volunteering as a Route to Entry

Quite often, once you’re in an organisation, even as a volunteer, you’re welcome to apply for positions as and when they come up – or even encouraged to apply by others.  It’s a classic route to entry for both graduates and career changer.

4.       Networking

We’ve said it before, but we’ll repeat it here: networking is the key to personal and career progression, and volunteering gives you access to a brand-new network of potentially useful people. As a volunteer, people are generally more inclined to help you network or meet others, since it’s a way of thanking you for your commitment.

5.       ‘Try Before you Buy’

If you really are considering a new career in a different field or an organisation about which you know nothing, a short spell as a volunteer in your spare time can teach you everything you need to know – and help you make up your mind.  When organisations recruit, they’re often on their best behaviour: after all, they’re trying to attract the very best that the market has to offer.  As a volunteer, you’ll most likely get to see the inner workings, warts and all.

6.       Escapism & Life-Balance

If you’re stuck in a job that is largely unfulfilling, but are not willing to give up the benefits / security that it brings, a few hours of voluntary work doing something you love can become the weekly highlight, and might keep your sanity in check!

7.       Personal Growth

Finally, volunteering can also offer personal growth (leadership, creativity, etc.) that you can’t get in the workplace, so in a sense, you could look at it as free training or practical exercise.

However, the fantastic reality is, that although I’ve called this article the ‘The Selfish Volunteer’, it genuinely is a win-win situation, so if you haven’t thought seriously about volunteering, why not give it another go…?

By: Julian Smith
Director – I Am Enterprises Ltd.

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