Natalie Harrison looks at some of the many ways in which volunteering with the RSPB can benefit your career...
Sharing is caring - we all know that. But did you ever stop to think that volunteering could be more than simply a selfless activity? It does far more than just give you something interesting to talk about at summer barbecues. Volunteering actually helps supercharge CV’s, and with work experience and newly discovered skills for you to extol, boosts career choices. It might even lead to opportunities you never thought possible.
As a volunteer, you’ll look experienced and conscientious, willing and able to help others or a good cause. You’re exhibiting that you give something back. And the rewards are abundant. Volunteering helps determine exactly what you want from a career, tailoring career goals. Perhaps you’ll decide you’re a good fit for a big, bustling multi-national, or better suited to a small, family-run organisation. Sure, outside work might sound appealing, but just how dirty do you want to get? Or has the monotony of an air-conditioned nine-to-five drained your spirit, and got you itching for the great outdoors? Experts in career guidance say volunteering impresses prospective employers. It helps you signpost down just the right track, or shake things up by adding something fresh to your working life.
Work out what you want
Say you’re confined to the daily grind, imprisoned within four walls. Give yourself a literal breather in a beautifully verdant tree-lined landscape. With the RSPB, the options are endless. Help man one of our on-site shops in a retail role, or wander a reserve surveying water voles. Perhaps you’ll prefer showing off your theatrical side - the RSPB even needs volunteer actors for its short films!
Being secure in your job doesn’t mean you can’t try new things. By volunteering with the RSPB, you’ll see nature in a whole new light, and become part of a local, national and global community that’s passionate about nature. Volunteering is versatile. Forever dreamt of outdoor work beneath a vast blue sky, but unsure you’re cut out physically? Do you want a sideways shift away from your current job or into completely new terrain? Organisations really value your time and support, so if you’re lacking in confidence or returning to work after a break, you shouldn’t endure the pressures a paid job might bring. It’s a non-threatening opportunity to test the waters.
Volunteering gives you the opportunity to build confidence, doesn’t usually depend on qualifications, and is great for plugging work history gaps. Who knows? It might even help you get a promotion at work, leverage a pay rise or a place on projects in a department you’ve only ever daydreamed about from across the hall. In fact, in some roles, it’s said volunteering is actually a prerequisite to getting the job.
You can even broaden your horizons in a literal sense – the RSPB and its partner organisations run placements at home and abroad. Already comfortable and secure in your current job? All well and good. But with robots said to be eyeing up our jobs, it’s wise to be one step ahead.
Ace those interviews
With your new-found knowledge and experience, you’ll set yourself apart from the competition and tackle job interview questions like a pro. That time you held the fort only for the inevitable sudden rush of customers? Expertly relay how you applied your knowledge and expertise in a real-world setting. Volunteering demonstrates wider interests and a desire to develop, exhibiting potential to progress as an employee – surely a great thing for any dynamic, forward-thinking company.
Develop as a professional
With voluntary work, you’ll hone existing skills, bringing them right up to date - and ultimately gain some new ones, too. You might gain new qualifications or unearth skills you never knew you had! You’ll demonstrate time management and the ability to organise and plan. Add to that problem solving and communication skills, adaptability, and an ability to work independently, as well as part of a team. Leadership skills, perhaps. With prospective employers, you’ll be a sure-fire hit.
On the job, you’ll unearth your values, demonstrating commitment, professionalism, and respect for the wider world – all the while acting as an organisation’s ambassador. A company might have a very specific brand and ethos they want to portray. You’ll no doubt think about the implications of what you do, learning to navigate interests of the public, colleagues and stakeholders. Considering the pressures of the modern world, where you’re often expected to be on call 24/7 and holidays and too much time off are no-no’s, with voluntary work there’s less risk to your resumé than the confines of a full time paid job. So don’t be afraid to show off your accomplishments.
Networking is key
Networking doesn’t have to be confined to social media or business brunches. With a volunteering role, you never know who you might meet. The RSPB brings together people from all walks of life, from accountants, gardeners and cooks, to shop workers, artists and teachers. You know that old adage – that friend who knows a friend…it’s not always what you know, but who. Volunteering with us might just give you that break you’ve been looking for.
So, there you have it. By volunteering, you’ll get more of an insight into what really motivates and inspires you, and you’ll be endowed with a true sense of purpose. You’ll impress would-be employers, and it’ll get you off the couch, taking action, perhaps motivating you to get back to work or switch careers. Whatever your vocational situation, if you’re happy and satisfied outside of work, the personal and social benefits of volunteering can only help you perform better as an employee. Devoting time to help a cause can be altruistic and self-serving. And in terms of your career, that’s no bad thing.