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How to volunteer your way into a career

by Amanda Collins

If you have been out of work for a while, want to change careers, or you are unhappy with your current job, then volunteering could help you to leapfrog into a career that you actually love.

How to volunteer your way into a career

Why volunteering is a great idea

A job you love

As a volunteer you get to explore an interest in a particular job sector, even if you don’t currently have the experience behind you to secure a paid position.

If you’ve been interested in a particular organisation or career, volunteering can also give you a better insight into what a company/role offers. It can help you to make up your mind whether the job is for you without the pressure of a pay-check.

Test out an organisation

A work environment or a boss can have a huge impact on your happiness levels at work. If you are interested in working for an organisation, why not volunteer some of your time and work with them for free. That way, if a job does come up, you have a pretty good idea of the organisation’s culture as a whole, and whether you want to be a part of it.

Free experience

So many roles these days require experience, which is all well and good if you have it, but can be a problem if you’re changing careers or are trying to launch a career.

Volunteering allows you to build up a bank of experience which you can put on your resume to fill it out.

Volunteer career

Not ready to commit

Volunteering is perfect for people with other life commitments who want to test the career waters but are not ready to commit to full time work.

Whether you’re caring for family member, your kids are about to start school, or you just can’t commit yet, volunteering is the perfect option. You can build up experience, get a feel for the industry and get shot of confidence all at the same time.

Immediate confidence boost

Being out of work and spending a lot of time at home by yourself can drain you of confidence. Getting back into a work environment, with people and responsibilities, can really give you a much needed confidence boost.

Learning new skills, and realising that you are capable of doing a job can really help motivate you and pull you up and out of a rut.

Volunteer job

How to use your volunteer role to get a job

Strategically choose your position

Firstly, it’s important that you choose a company/job that will benefit you, as well as the organisation that you work for.

Strategically look at what you want to accomplish by volunteering. Is it to pick up skills? Gain experience? Fill a gap in your resume? Investigate a job that you love? Or work for an organisation that you admire?

Once you know why you want to volunteer, you can begin to target the right organisation.

There are very few workplaces that will turn down free workers if you present a strong enough case for yourself.

If it’s experience you’re after, ask to train in the role you want in exchange for free work. If you’re testing out an organisation, offer your specific skills in exchange for experience. For example, if you’re trained in accounting, offer your skills with the company books.

Treat it like a job

The best way to turn your volunteer role into a paying job, is to treat it like a job.

Be on time. Give it 100%. Be polite and courteous to your co-workers. Be focused and dedicated, and don’t slack off.

Volunteer and start a career


Making friends with your co-workers and bosses can help you land a paying job. People are more likely to employ you if they like you, and they can only really like you if they get to know you.

Even if there isn’t a paid job going, you may find that your co-workers become your employment advocates. They could tell you about upcoming positions, and recommend you for jobs.

Plus, networking also expands your social circle. Who knows what lifelong friendships you might make!

Take initiative

Show the organisation that you have value to offer by taking initiative and offering up ideas. Doing this may also show that you are capable of taking on the responsibility that comes with a paid position.

Start a career by volunteering

What are you waiting for?

Volunteering can open up many doors that otherwise would remain closed. It can provide you with much needed experience, confidence and a job test-run. All it takes is a little determination, a bit of hard work and commitment, and you could land the career of your dreams!

Need skills?

A qualification from Open Colleges could give you the skills and knowledge you need to launch your new career. Enrol today and start tomorrow!

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