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Find out about volunteering and how it can improve your skills.

Volunteering can help you gain skills and experience whether you want to change career path or progress in your current field.

It’s a common problem - you can’t get the job because you don’t have experience and you can’t get experience because you can’t get the job! Volunteering offers a chance to:

  • Gain new skills and experience
  • Try out new things
  • Widen your contacts so you hear about opportunities when they come up
  • Gain potential referees
  • Increase confidence
  • Demonstrate your commitment to your chosen field
  • Meet new challenges
  • Be inspired
  • Have fun!

Many volunteering opportunities can easily fit around work, as long as you turn up when you say you will. Expected commitments can vary from once a month, to half a day a fortnight up to one or two days a week, depending on the type of volunteering, so it pays to look around and see what fits into your lifestyle. If you work full time, there are also some opportunities in the evenings and at weekends.

If you’re coming up to retirement you may be planning what to do with all that ‘free time’. Your family and friends may also be making plans for you now that you are soon to be ‘available’. Now is the time for those holidays, spending time with grandchildren, new hobbies and activities, and these may fill your days. Some people are concerned that they will lose the sense of purpose and belonging they had in paid work and this is where volunteering may be the answer.

The top five benefits from volunteering reported by volunteers are:

  • A sense of satisfaction from seeing the results (97%)
  • I really enjoy it (96%)
  • It gives me a sense of personal achievement (88%)
  • Meet people and make friends (86%)
  • Gives me the chance to do things that I am good at (83%)

Options for volunteering

Well, almost anything, so you’ll need to narrow this down. To help you decide think about:

What type of volunteering?

  • With people
  • Practical / hands on work
  • Driving
  • Administration
  • Committee / Trustee work
  • Sports
  • Creative arts

Other considerations:

  • Do you want to stay within your current field and use your existing skills?
  • Do you want to try something completely new?
  • How much time to you want to give?
  • A regular commitment or ad hoc?
  • How far are you prepared to travel?
  • Will you be using public transport or driving?

Many organisations pay travel expenses, but not all.

Volunteer centres

Your local volunteer centre can help you to find the right opportunity. There is a national database of volunteer opportunities which you can search at http://www.do-it.org.uk/

Volunteer opportunities

The new Council offers many different volunteering opportunities across their services. You can find out more from their volunteering page.

Reach is a charity which specialises in matching skilled professionals to local charities that need volunteers. You can find out more at http://www.reachskills.org.uk/

Many job search websites have a volunteering section. They can be particularly useful if you have a specific type of work in mind, for example:

Guardian Jobs Volunteering or Environment Job Volunteering

There are now several organisations that provide gap years for anyone who doesn’t meet the stereotype of someone who wants to take a gap year. They can help organise travel and volunteering opportunities abroad which could make for the ideal career break. For more information see:

Inspired Breaks - Gap years for grown-ups
Gap 360 - Gap years for grown-ups

Last updated: October 2019