In her column, Jane Hatton, founder of Evenbreak, answers your employment questions. This issue she explains how volunteering can be a useful stepping stone to paid employment.
Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to a combination of illness and discrimination by employers, it’s some time since I’ve been employed. There is a long gap on my CV which may put employers off. I’m worried that my skills are out of date, and that I might struggle to go straight into a job after such a long time away from work. Should I consider volunteering?
A challenge faced by many disabled people is the length of time since they were last employed, and in some cases, they may never have been employed. This can cause a range of problems including the gap on the CV, and also the lack of recent experience of being in a workplace environment.
Ways to gain experience could definitely include voluntary work. This has to be thought through, because although voluntary work is unpaid, and usually part-time, you are still making a commitment which has to be honoured. You need to ensure that the role is something you are genuinely interested in and prepared to give time to.
The benefits of doing some voluntary work can include:
- Becoming used to having a structure to the day – having to be somewhere for a certain time and a routine.
- Gaining experience and new skills, or brushing up on old skills.
- Valuable training for learning new skills.
- Gaining real work experience.
- Showing future employers that you have recent work experience, and are prepared to work hard to gain a job.
- Having a sense of purpose, helping other people, and increasing your confidence.
- Social contact and the chance to meet new people.
Don’t forget to bear in mind what it almost certainly won’t offer:
- A salary (other than sometimes out-of-pocket expenses).
- A job, or the promise of a job.
There are many kinds of volunteer work available, and most charities are desperately trying to attract new volunteers. Voluntary work could include cleaning; gardening; admin; driving; shopping; befriending; doing maintenance jobs; helping to look after people – the list is endless.
Many volunteer roles, particularly those where you would be working with vulnerable people or children, will require you to have a DBS check. This means that the charity would have to ask the Criminal Records Bureau if you have a criminal record. Having a crime on your record doesn’t mean you definitely wouldn’t be offered a volunteer post – it would depend on the crime, when it took place and the kind of role you are applying for.
If you like the idea of doing some voluntary work to increase your experience, make your CV look better or just because you want to give back to the community, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I prepared to make a regular time commitment?
- Do I have the skills necessary for a particular role?
- Am I prepared to learn new skills and work with people I don’t know?
- Is this really what I want to do?
Volunteering doesn’t suit everyone, but it can be a very useful stepping stone to paid employment.
Visit the Evenbreak website to access candidate resources free of charge and more information about volunteering.