In today’s competitive job market, it is vital that you distinguish yourself from other graduates and prove that you have experience which demonstrates your soft skills. In fact, soft skills are more important than ever so being able to show that you have these skills will be invaluable when it comes to interviews.
One way to improve your soft skills and enhance your CV is volunteering. There are lots of reasons why you should volunteer, and in this article we are going to look at just some of the reasons you should volunteer.
Why should I volunteer?
You can gain new skills and improve existing ones
Volunteering is one of the best ways to learn new skills and to build on the ones you already have.
Depending on what type of volunteering you do, you can learn a range of skills that will help you in the workplace.
For example, if you are working on a big project with an organisation then this gives you project and time management skills. You will build on your problem solving skills and every volunteering opportunity will help you develop your communication skills as you will be communicating with people from all walks of life.
You could be volunteering in a role that relates somewhat to the industry you want to work in. For example, if you are a Treasurer of an organisation, this gives you experience in keeping accurate financial records, preparing budgets and paying invoices. Volunteering in a role such as this puts you in good stead when it comes to applying for an accountancy graduate scheme. It also gives you real-life experience outside of a structured internship or work experience placement.
Volunteering is extremely beneficial if you want to learn new skills and build on your current ones. Whether you are volunteering in a role that suits your future career or not, the skills you learn during your time volunteering will help you in the future.
You broaden your horizons
We can often live in our own bubble, be it at university or in a small town, and volunteering can help you broaden your horizons.
Not only do you learn more about different working environments, you also will come across people from all walks of life. You will learn different ways of approaching situations and hear from those who may have had a completely different life experience to you. This shows recruiters that you are a well-rounded individual who can work with a wide variety of people, including clients and stakeholders in your future career.
You will also be able to find out what you value most when it comes to the work that you do. For example, you may find that you value team work more than working individually, or that you enjoy project management more than you realised during your degree. All of these experiences will come in handy when you are looking for the right graduate job for you.
Meet new people
Volunteering is a great way to meet new people and, if you are volunteering in your industry, make great contacts.
Working towards a common cause often means that the friends you make volunteering will have the same interests and values as you do. Volunteering is a great way to meet people if you are new to the area or want to meet people outside of your immediate friendship group.
If you are volunteering in your industry then you could end up making some invaluable contacts. These contacts can offer you advice on getting into the industry and could act as references in your graduate role.
It improves your employability
TimeBank and reed.co.uk conducted a survey and found that 84% of those responsible for hiring thought that volunteering could lead onto a paid job and 80% value volunteering on a CV above hobbies. They also found that over 70% employers have seen those who have volunteered in the past gain higher salaries and more opportunities for a promotion.
Recruiters aren’t just interested in your academic record and the hard skills that you can demonstrate. They want to see that you have a life outside of work and your studies, and volunteering is a great way to demonstrate that. Not only does volunteering allow you to demonstrate your soft skills but it also shows recruiters that you are a good cultural fit for their company.
It improves your wellbeing
Volunteering England and The University of Wales recently conducted a research review and found that those who took part in volunteer work benefited from improved health in comparison with those who didn’t.
In general, people who volunteered had longer life expectancies, improved mental health, improved fitness, better coping mechanisms during illness and adopted healthier lifestyles. The study also found that volunteering had an overall positive impact on their wellbeing in terms of their family relationships and self-esteem.
You give back to the community
Finally, one of the most important reasons you should volunteer is because you are giving back to the community. There is nothing more rewarding than helping out with a cause you care strongly about and seeing it make a positive difference in someone’s life.
Whether you are volunteering abroad or locally, you will find volunteering hugely rewarding.
Where can I volunteer?
You can find volunteer opportunities in a multitude of places, but it really depends on what sort of volunteering you would like to do.
If you would like to volunteer in STEM, there are some great programmes that you may be interested in. For example, you could become a STEM Ambassador, encouraging students to consider studying STEM subjects at a higher level. From mentoring to hosting careers talks, becoming a STEM Ambassador will help improve your communication and presentation skills.
Alternatively, you may want to volunteer at the Stemettes, an initiative to inspire the next generation of females into the STEM fields. Many of their opportunities are open to all genders, from volunteering at events to helping with mock interviews, though there are some opportunities that are only available to women (or identify as such or non-binary) including becoming a mentor.
If you would like to take on a more finance focused voluntary role, then many charities advertise for finance managers, treasurers or accountants. Responsibilities may include preparing budgets and keeping accurate financial records. These roles are great preparation for a future career in finance, and can also give you management experience. Websites such as CharityJob and Third Sector Volunteering have a range of different roles for different charities across the UK.
You can read more about the different places you can volunteer here.
There are so many reasons why you should volunteer. Not only is it good for your health and gives you a great chance to give back to the community, but it also gives you a chance to learn new skills and increase your employability.