Volunteering can be a great way to gain valuable work experience, develop your skill set and establish new professional contacts.
Hiring managers and recruiters will look favourably on signs of volunteering experience found on your CV, but it’s not simply a case of any experience will do; some opportunities will be more suited to you than others, and to find the best ones you need to do your research.
Here are four key questions you should ask yourself when evaluating volunteering positions:
1. Does it align with my interests and values?
Volunteering is all about giving up your time and effort for a certain cause, and for it to be a positive experience it needs to be a cause you believe in. So, try to find opportunities that align with your interests and values. For example, if you care deeply about animal welfare, try your local dog shelter. Doing something you are passionate about will make you more motivated and in turn more likely to excel at what you do. It can also make it easier to navigate the more challenging times at work.
2. How can it help me to develop my career?
The most valuable volunteering positions are those that help you get closer to achieving your career goals, whether through the development of certain core skills or simply by giving you the experience you need to take that next step. So, always ask yourself what a certain position can offer you. If you’ve thought about what you want to achieve in your career and developed a rough understanding of what you need to do to get there, keep this in mind as you evaluate different options. Try to get a clear sense of what your responsibilities will be as this will alert you to the types of skills you’ll most likely to be practising. The job description is a great place to start your research.
3. What’s the company’s reputation?
Before you agree to dedicate your time and effort to a certain company it’s important that you find out a little bit more about how they operate and how they treat their employees. Just like with any regular, paid job, it’s important that you feel happy and valued in your role. Websites like Glassdoor are a great source of information on company culture as they include personal reviews from current and previous employees.
4. Will I have the time and money to do it?
Volunteering positions are usually unpaid, although some companies may cover travel expenses or other necessities such as food, drink and accommodation. It’s important to find out exactly what you’re being offered before you jump into something as it can quickly become expensive. Also consider how much time you’ll have to dedicate to the position and how it will fit in with any other responsibilities you may have. While the experience may be worthwhile, it shouldn’t make other aspects of your life impossible.
Finding a volunteering position that is right for you does not have to be difficult, as long as you give serious thought to what you want and do your research on the role and company. In other words, treat it like any other job search and there should be nothing stopping you from finding a role that’s fun, inspiring and full of learning opportunities.