Work experience / volunteering
Volunteering is a great way to get work experience – there are lots of opportunities to try and it helps your CV. You can find lots of information about volunteering on the NCVO website and the gov.uk website.
You can volunteer if you are on benefits. Click here for more information from the gov.uk website on what you might need to do.
Finding a volunteering opportunity
You can find out more about local opportunities from your local Volunteer Centre or search www.do-it.org
You can find volunteering opportunities at the following websites:
tcv.org.uk – for volunteering opportunities in conservation
If there is an organisation you are particularly interested in working for, you could approach them directly to see if you are able to volunteer for them. This can be a really useful way to get known by an organisation and there may be opportunities to move into paid work with them in the future.
Volunteering and benefits
You can volunteer whilst you are job seeking but do let the Job Centre know. You cannot be paid for your voluntary work but you can receive out of pocket expenses, e.g. your travel costs for getting to the place where you volunteer. There is a helpful guide from Citizens Advice about Benefits and Volunteering
How to apply for volunteering
Once you have contacted the organisation you want to volunteer for, either through the do-it website, a volunteer centre or directly they will let you know the process to apply.
It is likely that you will need to do an application form, have a face to face conversation with them and give them names of references to contact. They might be happy with friends, or want the name of someone who you have worked or volunteered for. You might also need to have a DBS check. If any of these things are difficult, do contact the organisation to talk this through with them or get support from a service who can help.
It can take a long time from finding an opportunity you want to do to starting it. Keep in contact with the organisation so that you know where your application is with them and be patient.
If the first application doesn’t work out, try somewhere else. Like work, employers need to make sure that volunteers are a good fit for their organisation and the role you might play there.
Volunteering is as relevant as paid work on a CV, in an application form and at interview, so it is worth persisting.
Volunteering is an excellent gateway into paid work. Filling in application forms, speaking at interview, completing a CV all become much more straightforward with some volunteering experience to draw on. Gaps in a CV are easier to discuss if you can say that you were volunteering while you were looking for another job, and volunteering has the advantage of being flexible and able to work round other commitments like job interviews or caring responsibilities.
Volunteering is also good for your wellbeing. Research shows that making connections with other people, making a contribution, learning and being active are all essential components of mental wellbeing and are all things that volunteering help you to achieve. For people who have been out of work for a while, it is a valuable way of building confidence to return into paid work.
Some voluntary roles will provide training opportunities and can also be an excellent source of a reference, and some voluntary roles may even lead to paid work.
Other ways of getting involved locally
As well as formal volunteering, you could get involved in your community in other ways. You could set up a local interests group, a coffee morning or lunch club. You could get involved in groups that already run, who often need extra support and don’t always advertise on the volunteering websites given above.
To find out what’s happening locally, most communities will have a newsletter, or you could ask in a local library, or look on your parish council website.
There is further information on setting up local groups on the Cambridgeshire.net website