So you’ve decided you want to take the plunge and volunteer, but how can you optimise your chances of finding the role that suits you? The beauty of volunteering is that you are doing something because you want to, not something you feel obliged to do and if you are not going to enjoy the role, it’s never going to work. Volunteering is like any other relationship in your life, if there is no mutual respect, support and communication and you really don’t want to be in it, it could end in divorce! Here are a few tips which will hopefully help you find the right role for you!
- Are you ready to volunteer? – does now feel like the right time to try? Do you need support to volunteer to ensure you feel safe? Has your health not been brilliant? Have you got the time, or is there lots going on in your life? These are all things to think about before you take the plunge.
- Research – have you got something in mind already? Is there a particular cause you want to support? Do a little research to see what’s out there and if you need help visit your local Volunteer Centre, who are quite simply the best people to tell you what’s available in your area. With their local knowledge and relationships with local volunteer-involving groups, they will do the best to find you options that suit you.
- Manage your expectations – volunteering can be a life-changing experience. When it works well, it boosts your self-esteem, gives you confidence and can boost your skills. However, it’s unlikely to lead to paid employment with the not-for-profit you are giving your time to, although you will gain lots of useful skills, experience and a reference. If you are seeking particular experience in a business environment eg accountancy, construction, this would not be volunteering but unpaid work. Volunteering is not a replacement for social care and if you need support, maybe volunteering isn’t the right choice for you at the moment.
- Be realistic – how much time could you dedicate to volunteering? Do you work? Are you currently studying? Do you have any family or caring commitments? Would you like to volunteer as a one-off, once a month, once a fortnight, every week? This may well affect your choice of roles as there are lots of roles out there, but the commitment may differ. Do be honest with yourself and if you will struggle to fit volunteering into an already busy life, wait until the time is right.
- Getting there – when you are looking at a role think about the practicalities of getting there to volunteer. If you don’t drive, will you need to get the bus or train? What are the services like and is there a local stop. You may really want to help, but isn’t 3 buses a step too far? Hopefully there will be something nearer to where you live and again, this is where your local Volunteer Centre can help.
- First contact – how was your enquiry dealt with? Was the person you spoke to friendly and informative? Were they happy to answer questions? Did they give you information to take away to look at, or links to access the information on line? From this first contact, does this feel like the right match for you? If you aren’t sure, say you would like to think about it, or if you really don’t get a positive vibe you could just say you have changed your mind.
- Reflect before making a decision – take a step back and consider if this is going to be the right role for you, taking into consideration everything we’ve mentioned already. If you are unsure ask more questions to reassure yourself. Should you not get the answers you want, consider walking away. Volunteering has to be a two-way thing and if the relationship isn’t going to work for both you and the organisation, it’s going to end in a break-up.
Just like relationships there will be the perfect volunteering role for you out there and a little care, and thought can lead to the perfect match. Don’t be put off if your first attempt fails as there’s the one for you out there! Just get in touch with your local Volunteer Centre and they will love to help – that’s what we are here for! Happy volunteering