This is a word that nowadays carries as much prestige on a CV, as the word “Chartered” does before Accountant. In this current economic and financial climate, this is hardly surprising.
So what exactly are the benefits, of having a voluntary role?
– Before I start I’d like to say that a voluntary role is not for everyone.
Indeed it can be like Marmite: you either love it and find the idea of volunteering truly exciting, or you alternatively find the prospect uninspiring.
For those of us in our 20s-30s trying desperately to find our way in the world, volunteering is a great way of showing interest in a certain area or profession – for future employers. Indeed whether you’d like to be an airline pilot, work with a specific social group, be a waitress, or an artist of some description, volunteering these days can set you apart from the rest of the candidates. This is demonstrated well I think, in a sketch by Monty Python:
(Michael Palin’s character wants to be a Lion Tamer, John Cleese is the Careers Adviser)
John Cleese : Do you have any qualifications?
Michael Palin: Yes I’ve got a hat
John Cleese: A hat?
Michael Palin: A lion taming hat, with Lion Tamer on it..
John Cleese: The snag is that if I now call (the contacts name) and say to him look here, I’ve got a 45 year old Chartered Accountant with me who wants to become a Lion Tamer, his first question is not going to be “does he have his own hat?”. He’s going to ask what sort experience you’ve had with lions….
In short then: experience is the evidence of your enthusiasm, that will encourage an employer to eagerly eye your CV.
Of course however, a person might not be looking to move into a career through volunteering. In these cases other benefits of volunteering will be equally important. Indeed a weekly voluntary role could have hugely significant benefits for a person’s health, psychologically and physically.
There are certain volunteering roles which would allow someone to become more active: I’m thinking here for example of gardening-based roles, roles that involve working with children and other social groups etc., or positions that involve organising and putting-on various events.
Whatever the role a volunteer has, there are inevitably going to be other people at these organisations who they can build up a great and long-lasting rapport with. This is turn will have significant and positive effects on a person’s mental health. Firstly, since getting out and meeting new people is always a positive thing to be doing – if people feel they would like to. Secondly some volunteers get a sense of accomplishment, have the gratifying feeling of participating towards a good cause, or enjoy their role because they feel they are doing something productive. These are the feelings that some people have about their volunteering roles, and it is for this reason that they find such work to be so motivating.
A last benefit of volunteering is one which is perhaps less obvious, though no less important. It is something that happens far more gradually. As I write this I have the words of a politician in my head: ‘education, education, education’. This mantra perfectly sums up the personal developments and subconscious changes, that result from volunteering. Simply put, “you’ll learn a lot”. For example I currently have a role volunteering with people, in a fast-paced environment where no two days are the same. I find that in the short time since I started, I have learnt a large amount about the industry I’m in. In addition, and this has been happening so slowly that I haven’t noticed, but doing it has allowed my confidence to greatly improve.
To close I would just like to “shout-out” to everyone I’ve met in my various volunteering roles; I really appreciate what they’ve done for me, and the opportunities I’ve had because of them. Indeed each of the roles I’ve done has ultimately helped me to grow, in unforeseen and positive ways, into the person I am today.
To the audience: if you feel like you can, and would like to volunteer, then I encourage you to try it. Indeed as I hope I’ve shown: there’s not much to lose from volunteering, but instead a vast amount to gain :).