Sonia Hendy-IsaacBy Sonia Hendy-Isaac, Senior Lecturer in Curriculum Design for Employer Engagement

It’s easy to say that volunteering is a good thing to do; by its very nature, it demonstrates that you are charitable, thoughtful and prepared to give time in order to help and/or support others – but for me, that view is a little outdated, and perhaps too simple.

Students can find it challenging enough to juggle their ‘regular’ demands – academic expectations are more often than not coupled with part-time employment, and other financial considerations – so finding the time to volunteer signifies a clear commitment to do something ‘beyond the norm’. Many students will have heard all about the value of volunteering to improve their CV and increase their employability, but it’s important to point out that just ‘doing some volunteering’, in and of itself, doesn’t achieve either of those aims, unless you are able to articulate the value of the experience in a clear and concise way.

The key to making the best of voluntary opportunities, for these purposes, is to identify your reasons for doing it – exploring our motivations enables us to establish and understand our own values – these can be a great way to start conversations with potential employers and be able to demonstrate how these values manifest themselves in your actions. Whilst it’s essential that you enjoy volunteering, take time to analyse the skills you’ve developed during your experience – do these extend your employability? Do they bridge the gaps in your CV? If not, can you adapt or extend your volunteering activity to do so? By identifying these areas, you can be proactive in your development whilst putting something back into wider society.

Of course, you can argue that many students volunteer for purely altruistic reasons and you would be right – but there is no harm at all in utilising these opportunities for both personal and professional growth. The exploration of motivations, actions and experience only ever adds to a stronger sense of self awareness, autonomy and identity – surely everyone benefits from that?

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Sonia Hendy-Isaac

Sonia Hendy-Isaac

Senior Lecturer, Curriculum Design for Employer Engagement