Volunteering is the act of donating your time and energy to do something for a good cause; something that aims to benefit the lives of others, or the environment. Whilst volunteer work is done without receiving financial reward, there are a wealth of other benefits - with a huge range of opportunities available for a range of people, in a variety of sectors.
For many volunteers, a key reason behind volunteering is a genuine concern and care for the well-being of others. For other people, contributing to society brings additional benefits, including career development and meeting new people. Volunteer work can add pleasure, diversity and a sense of satisfaction to everyday life. Volunteers can develop new skills, build relationships, face new challenges and even learn more about themselves.
On this page, we will delve deeper into the reasons that many people choose to volunteer and explore how a life coach may be able to help you make the step into volunteering.
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What are the benefits of volunteering?
Entering the world of volunteer work takes confidence and many people will feel nervous about the prospect of starting a new role. Not only that but, with busy lives, it can be difficult to find the time and motivation to volunteer. But, there are enormous benefits to volunteering - not only for the community but also for you.
Set your CV apart
Volunteer work may be unpaid, but having volunteering experience on your CV can be a very impressive addition. According to a TimeBank survey of some of the UK’s leading businesses, 73% said they would employ someone who has volunteer work on their CV over someone who hasn’t.
Not only is it an impressive addition to your CV, volunteering is a great way to get a reference and fill any gaps in your work experience. If you have time without work, volunteering can offer the chance to try different roles and decide whether you want a change of direction.
Develop existing skills - and gain new ones
Volunteer work is a great way to develop new and existing life skills. Volunteering can help you develop communication skills, especially if you find meeting new people difficult. It can be easy to get caught up in close relationships with friends, colleagues and family members, but the social element to volunteering means you will be meeting and interacting with a diverse range of people.
Volunteer work may also require working within a group of people; teamwork requires empathy, patience, good communication and understanding. Developing these ‘people skills’ are vital in ensuring every member of the team feels valued and comfortable. It is important to be a good listener and approachable, but also to be bold. If you have ideas, share them! You never know, your idea may improve the volunteer programme and open even more opportunities.
Build your confidence
By doing something good for others in the community, pushing yourself to meet new people and taking on new challenges, volunteer work can be very effective in boosting your confidence levels. The natural sense of accomplishment gained from volunteering can lead to a greater sense of pride and identity. The better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to accept new experiences.
However, you don’t need to be really confident to take part in a volunteer programme. Simply taking the plunge and saying ‘yes’ can be a step in the right direction.
Charity volunteer work is a great way to make connections, both personal and professional. With technology and social media improving, it is very easy to talk to new people. Yet, being behind a screen can result in us lacking the confidence and knowledge when it comes to making connections in real life. Networking is a vital part of working life and, if done correctly, it can help you progress in your career. Volunteering offers the opportunity to meet like-minded people in less formal situations. It is a great way to show off your skills, your personality and make connections with people that may help you achieve your goals.
Improve health and well-being
As well as proving effective for boosting emotional well-being, developing key skills and improving employability, studies have found volunteering to be good for physical health. Volunteer work can offer people a social life and an opportunity to get outside. It is thought to be particularly beneficial for older people, as it gives them back a routine and sense of purpose, following the end of employment.
Generally, young people tend to have higher engagement levels with social action, than any other age group. Volunteering provides a great break from studying; it can help you to gain practical work experience - knowledge and skills that you can’t gain from academic study alone. This can help to enrich your choices about further studying, career opportunities, and even life choices.
Research suggests that 16 to 25-year-olds are the age group with the highest rates of participation in volunteering, with 32% volunteering on a monthly basis and 49% volunteering once a year.
As a student, you are often blessed with time - you are not necessarily confined to the hours of a full-time job, there are holiday breaks, and you may even have free time during the day. This presents a good window of time to explore volunteering opportunities. There is also generally a comfort of security - family members are able to support you in many ways, whether that be through offering advice, emotional support, or financial help.
There are endless volunteering possibilities for people of all ages, but what are some of the best opportunities available for students?
National Citizen Service
If you’re aged 15 to 17, you can take part in the National Citizen Service (NCS). This gives you the opportunity to live away from home, develop skills to boost your CV and have a taste of different types of social actions, from working in community projects to fundraising.
Gap year volunteering
A gap year is an opportunity to take time out of studying, to take part in personal development activities - such as work, travel, or volunteering. This can be a popular option for young people between college and university, or after university - but before starting work. A gap year can be a good opportunity to take part in voluntary opportunities such as unpaid internships, or even to travel and volunteer abroad - for example, through teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) opportunities.
Volunteering abroad doesn’t necessarily mean having to take a gap year. There are many organisations which run volunteer placements abroad, from anything from a few days to a few months. There are even organisations such as ISV, which specialise in volunteering abroad for students - they will be able to help you coordinate opportunities that do not impact on your studying during term times.
Volunteering at festivals is a popular option for students; if you’re strapped for cash, but still want to experience a musical festival, becoming a festival volunteer is a good option. This provides experience in industries such as hospitality and security - and the work is often arranged in shifts, meaning you’ll still be able to spend time with friends and enjoying the festival.
How can a life coach help?
Some people thrive in new environments and flourish at the new opportunities that volunteer work offers. However, it is common to lack the confidence to start something new. Or, perhaps you just don’t know where to start.
If you are ready to take on new chances and do something for the good of others, but you need a helping hand, the first step of your journey may be to contact a life coach.
Building your confidence and self-belief
Life coaches are equipped with tools and techniques to help build your self-belief, so if you are lacking confidence, or are nervous about meeting new people, tell them. A life coach can work with you to build self-belief so that you can start the job with your head held high.
If you are worried, your coach can help you manage and overcome any anxieties you have about volunteering. They will teach you how to see it as an exciting opportunity, rather than something to be feared.
Finding the right work for you
It is important to find volunteer work that you enjoy, are passionate about and feel confident in doing. If you have a particular skill you wish to develop, or you need more experience in a certain job sector, your life coach can help you decide which form of volunteer work will be most beneficial.
During a session, the life coach will likely ask you questions about your career, health, aspirations and work/life balance. Together you can discuss your strengths and weaknesses, your key skills and passions, your time commitments, any concerns you may have and the reasons why you want to volunteer.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions before choosing a position, both to your life coach and the company running the programme. Asking questions shows interest, but also ensures you are getting the most out of the experience.
Preparing you for volunteer work
While you will build upon skills during the work, it can be useful to go in knowing what is expected from you. Your life coach will be able to prepare you for your placement, explaining the skills required and how you can work on them before starting.
A life coach can also offer support and guidance throughout your volunteer work - helping you to take advantage of the opportunity and really enjoy life. They can offer advice and help you build the skills essential for personal development and progression.
You can use our advanced search tool to find a coach who resonates with you. We encourage our members to add as much information as possible to their profiles, so that you can learn more about the way they work and if they are the right person for you.
How do I start volunteering?
You might be looking for an informal or temporary arrangement, or to become part of an ongoing project. The best place to start is by doing your own research. If there’s a cause or particular type of work that interests you, explore what opportunities are already available.
You can get in contact with your local volunteer centre, or reach out to volunteering organisations that can help you find a way to volunteer that suits you. Do-it is a database of UK volunteering opportunities, allowing you to search more than a million volunteering opportunities by interest, activity or location and then apply online. Similar organisations include Join-in and Volunteering Matters.
If there aren’t any opportunities available near you that are of interest, be proactive and make contact with a charity or organisation that you would like to donate your time to.
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