I suspect you would be hard pushed to find a careers professional who hadn’t seen, at first hand, the benefits brought to clients through involvement in volunteering. In fact, research from the Institute for Volunteering Research identifies that 87% of employers think that volunteering can have a positive effect on career progression for people aged 16-25. But that’s not to say that volunteering is, or should be, restricted to younger clients. And nor is it to say that the only benefits are connected to employability. We know that volunteering can help develop relevant work skills and can also be a good way of trying and testing involvement in different settings and with different client groups. But there are many other reasons why volunteering may be something to consider.
We’ve all come across those clients who are neither happy nor unhappy, but just a little flat. Sometimes work alone is not enough to sustain our mojo, but a shift towards new extra-curricular activities, on the other hand, can give an enhanced lease of life. Is there a charity which the client feels passionate about? Do they wish to work more closely with a particular client group? Volunteering can provide this challenge.
Career breaks, redundancy, unemployment… it can be unsettling for future employers to see periods of inactivity on a CV. Volunteering can be a great way of providing continuity in times like this, and to create an image of proactivity. Don’t forget – volunteering doesn’t have to be a full time commitment. Offering up two or three hours per week, or involvement in a one-off event can achievable for a great many people alongside existing commitments.
For me, this is the biggie. Low confidence can be a real stumbling block for clients of all ages but particularly those who may be unhappy at work, or out of work. It is easy to feel disengaged and for motivation to drop. Volunteering can help people in this situation to feel re-connected, and to start rebuilding a sense of achievement. All these things are crucial to attack the job market in the right way and with the right frame of mind.
Success in the job market can still depend upon ‘who you know’ and volunteering can bring you into contact with people who are in a position to help your career. But it doesn’t just have to be about career contacts. Volunteering can provide a great social network as well, and this can help increase confidence and opportunities.
Involvement in the wider community can be a real eye-opener. There are lots of benefits to being brought into contact with a huge cross-section of people, including groups that volunteers may have had little contact with before. This can be very enriching both personally and professionally and can help reinforce a new set of values and perspective.
OK, so we all know that the downside is that you don’t get paid. But reward doesn’t have to be financial. What’s not to love about that feeling of satisfaction that is gained from a selfless activity and knowing you have helped other people or have made a difference?
When dealing with clients, remember that career alone doesn’t have to be the only reason to suggest voluntary work. The personal benefits may outweigh the professional ones and so often the two develop hand in hand anyway. The Do It website can be a really good starting point for those that want to explore which opportunities exist or to search for the nearest volunteer centre who can help put you in contact with organisations who need support. Alternatively, most charities will have a volunteer coordinator or manager who can be contacted directly with any enquiries.