Volunteering remains popular and is a wonderful way of giving something back as well as learning new skills. Read on to find out more about the benefits.
Volunteering is usually unpaid and can cover a huge range of activities such as running the local playgroup, being a parent governor at your local school or working for your local Citizens Advice Bureau. In addition, there are a large number of charities who rely upon the great work and spirit that volunteers bring.
Volunteering can come about in many ways. Commonly, there is a natural link with a cause, but for many it’s a way of opening up a new chapter either as a means to develop new skills and meet new people or as a way to build up confidence. But by far the most popular reason is being asked.
Ivan Wise of Worldwide Volunteering says: “Volunteering is a wonderful way of boosting your skills. It can, like any work experience, give you a great new angle to your CV and get you a referee. Although you don’t get paid to volunteer, it may well help you land a paid job down the line. Volunteering can also help your confidence, make you more organised, allow you to meet many new people and give you a huge sense of fulfilment as well.”
According to a survey by Workingmums.co.uk lack of confidence is one of the main hurdles for women who want to return to the workplace. So, taking on some voluntary work can be a real confidence booster. It’s also a great way to brush up on existing skills. If you’ve taken time out of your career to bring up your children but now want to return to work you may look at volunteering in an area which showcases your past career experience. For example, you could volunteer to do the promotion or PR for your local village fete or community project.
In addition it can be a great opportunity to develop new interests. Mike Locke, Volunteering England’s former director for public affairs, says: “People find they have interests and talents through volunteering which later they can apply to help develop their career.” Mike adds that sometimes this can lead to a new career altogether. “Sometimes, people re-invent their careers – and themselves – through volunteering,” he says.
It’s also a great way of revamping your CV. Remember to try to link anything that you have achieved to the competency skills required for the post you’re going for. Mike says: “People who have become redundant can refresh their skills and stay in touch with the job-market through volunteering. And the experiences from volunteering are very often useful on your CV.”
For mums looking to get back to work or for stay-at-home mums it can provide a great opportunity to do something different and at the same time meet new people, make new contacts and open up opportunities.
Ivan says that busy mums shouldn’t be put off from volunteering because of time factors. “Volunteering can be fitted around almost any schedule,’ he says. ‘’You can help out just for a day on a charity fun run, help out at a youth club for one evening a week, become a school governor and give up a few hours a month or help out at a residential summer camp for a week in August. Whatever time you have available, there will be a project out there to suit you.”
Lynn Eldred was a single mum of two when she volunteered as a bereavement counsellor for Cruse in Cambridge. Whilst she had to undergo a 60-hour training programme she managed to fit this in in the evenings and after that she only had to commit to one or two hours a week.
Interested mums can go to www.do-it.org. Considering the kinds of causes or services you’d like to be involved in will give you a head start. You can search volunteering opportunities on workingmums.co.uk and also discuss opportunities with your local Volunteer Centre. For England you can find this on the Volunteering England website: www.volunteering.org.uk/finder
Judy Esmond, a volunteering expert and author of Count Me In! 501 Ideas on Recruiting Volunteers says that because of women’s restraints on time, more and more are demanding more stimulating and satisfying volunteering projects. So be clear from the outset about what time you can give up and what you are prepared to do.