Working as a volunteer can be a valuable kick-start to your career in the charity sector. It’s also great if you’re getting back into work after a break, and need to update your CV with experience and some newly gained skills.
- Apply to small local organisations and offer up your skills – they might not have the resource to advertise vacancies but would no doubt really value an extra pair of hands. In a smaller organisation you’ll also be a big fish in a small sea, and have the opportunity to really make a difference and implement new initiatives.
Big national charities or major public events (e.g. the Olympics) get lots of press and are always calling for more volunteers. However these roles can be pretty competitive to get, just like a paid job.
- Make it easy for them to employ you. If it’s a charity dealing with children or vulnerable adults they will need to initiate employment vetting and get your CRB checks done. However as an individual you can pay for Basic Disclosure, which details any unspent convictions or shows that you have no convictions. It’s not all they need, but it’s a start and shows willing.
- Do a CV and edit it to include relevant experience and skills. This is especially important if you’re applying speculatively for a volunteer position. Leave the CV with them and follow up with an email or a call if you don’t hear anything after a week or so.
- Use your network – family, friends, colleagues, teachers – ask around and see if anyone knows of someone who works in a charity that uses volunteers. A recommendation and introduction goes a long way and shows you’re proactive.
- At interview or when meeting them, treat it like a paid job. Look professional, turn up on time, do your preparation and be personable. If some cases you may find the organisations is very informal, but if you’re not sure it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Dress smart and swot up on the charity.
A key thing to remember is that smaller not-for-profits are likely to be busy with a few staff dealing with a big workload. Make it easy for them to take you on and remind them what value you can bring. They are often passionate and hardworking people, who’d really appreciate a like-minded person in the team. And these top tips should help you get there!