Expert chat with vInspired: Volunteering for work experience

Our volunteering expert, SamSam from vInspired came by to answer your questions about volunteering for work experience. Pick up tips on how to select the best role for you and learn how to make the most of interviews.

Fiend_85: How much of a difference does volunteering make on a CV when you've got a career underway already?

Sam Sparrow: Great question! Volunteering can make a huge difference to your CV, even if you are really experienced in your career already. It can show great commitment and give you something interesting to talk about at interview which isn't your paid work.

becky: I think any volunteering is great experience, career path or no career path.

Sam Sparrow: Sometimes you'll get experience and responsibility when you volunteer that you wouldn't be able to get from your paid job, and if you want to change career, volunteering can be a great way of building new skills for your CV.

Geckoella: So here's a scenario. You have a part-time job which keeps your head afloat and pays the bills, but you need valuable work experience to get into that career you want. A paid internship becomes available for 12 months - it's the perfect opportunity! Do you stick with your job for security, or gamble for that dream internship?

Sam Sparrow: : Really excellent question Geckoella and I'm sure a situation many people are faced with. It can be really tricky to get the experience you need early on in your career, and I know of many people who have had to get it unpaid. The fact that the internship is paid is good news. In my experience, if you can manage it, taking the experience will always work out better long term - you have 12 months to plan ahead so make the most of the internship!

Greg: Are particular forms of volunteering seen as superior to others? Volunteering is of course quite a broad term.

Sam Sparrow: That's an interesting question. I don't think any types of volunteering are superior, but it's important if you want to use volunteering on your CV to think about what skills you want to gain and how you'll get them through your volunteer role.

Faisal: Volunteering can be a great way of building new skills and experiences for your future roles. However, what I have heard from some of my friends is that there is lack of volunteering roles out there. For example, they want to follow a career in accounting and can't find many volunteer roles out there. Is there any way we can overcome this challenge?

Sam Sparrow: Hi Faisal - first thing is first - there are literally squillions of opportunities and more than enough to go round so don't panic just yet! Whilst you may not find a specific accounting opportunity, there will be many opportunities where you can get skills that will be useful in an accountancy career. For example, you could look at maths based opportunities with children or even adults that need to improve numeracy skills - a volunteer mentor for example?

Sarah: I'm currently looking at finding a permanent job and I'm finding it difficult to balance the need to get a job and the need to deal with my mental health. I recently did some temping at a place and they asked for my CV for a possible permanent role. Since I'd been there a couple of weeks I thought it best to mention that I may need an hour or so a week for therapy. Despite following up on it and asking about the job again, I didn't get an interview and I think that was why. What's the best way to bring up that subject as it will need to come up eventually, and I don't want to seem like I was hiding something during the application process.

Sam Sparrow: : Hi Sarah, this is a really difficult situation and I'm sorry it didn't work out. There are no right or wrong answers here. However, it all depends on your employer and the relationship you have with them.

Sarah: Yeah, that's why I thought I would tell her when she asked for my CV, but I guess I was wrong.

Sam Sparrow: : If it's a new employer, I'd suggest waiting until after the offer. Most employers will understand about these situations especially since they want to hire you! Something else that may help is to do some regular volunteering to show that you are committed and it won't impact your work. Sometimes employers need showing that something will work in practice.

Sarah: I already do lots of volunteering :)

Sam Sparrow: : That's great news, so definitely make sure you talk about that. Also, if you're going through a temping agency that you know well, it may be a good idea to chat to them as they may be able to place you with more understanding employers.

Sarah: Yeah, I haven't been temping very long with this place but the woman who does the placements for me is really nice. The problem is that it will probably have an effect on my working hours. I'd obviously try and not let that happen, but last time I didn't have much choice.

Sam Sparrow: : Sometimes employers have flexible working, so you can come in earlier or leave later so that you still make the time up.

Sam Sparrow: : I hope that helps Sarah. Thanks for all your questions guys, I really enjoyed chatting with you all!

Next Steps

  • Search Do-it for information about volunteering and opportunities in your local area.
  • Go to vInspired to search for volunteering opportunities for 14-25 year olds.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.

Updated on 29-Sep-2015