A volunteer delivering items at the persons doorstep, both people are wearing PPE.

Transferable skills - Upskilling through volunteering

Put your office work skills and transferable skills to good use while progressing your office career through the many volunteering opportunities that are available. 

When you are already busy, when you have children at home to care for and when you feel like all of your efforts should be going towards getting a job or progressing your career, the thought of dedicating what time you do have to volunteering can feel a little counterproductive, but the benefits of taking on volunteering opportunities are bigger than you think, especially when you have office work skills to offer.

Through volunteering opportunities, you can provide vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes and the community while building your office career, developing your transferable skills, connecting with the community, finding new friends and looking after your mental and physical health. 

It is true that the more you volunteer the more you will benefit from it, but volunteering doesn't have to be a long-term commitment or take up a large amount of time, even what feels like the smallest commitment can have a huge benefit for you and the organisation you are helping.

10 ways that volunteering can benefit you

  1. Put your existing office work skills to use. Volunteering opportunities can help you build upon and develop the office work skills and transferable skills you already have while using them to benefit the greater community. This is a great way to practice your skills, put them to use in different circumstances to what you might do in a corporate office. To really master a skill, you need to be able to apply it to any circumstance and environment. For instance, being good at selling is great and it is a highly desirable skill to have if you have the confidence and communication skills to sell anything to anyone. This unerring confidence in your abilities is built by putting your skills to work in a variety of environments and industries.
  2. Learn new office work skills or transferable skills. Many volunteering opportunities provide extensive training opportunities that you can put to great use in your office career. For example, you could become an experienced crisis counsellor and learn effective active listing techniques while volunteering for a women’s shelter or you could become proficient at researching while donating your time as a museum docent or conservationist.
  3. Try a new career for size. Volunteering offers you the chance to try out a new career without making a long-term commitment. If you are unsure which direction you want to take your office career in over the longer term, you could take on a variety of shorter volunteering opportunities in varying industries and sectors to find out which you are most passionate about.
  4. Impress employers & build career experience. To build an office career and get the job opportunities you want, you need to show potential employers that you are the best person for the job. You will put yourself ahead of the competition if you can show that you have relevant and recent industry experience and knowledge, bonus points will come from showing that you were proactive in gaining the experience for yourself. Volunteer at an organisation that does the kind of work you’re interested in and you might also connect with professional organisations and individuals who could prove to be helpful to you in your longer term office career.
  5. Counteract the effects of stress, anger, and anxiety. Helping and working with people can have a profound effect on your overall psychological well-being. Being sociable and making meaningful connections with other people is a great stress reliever. Working with animals has also been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. See our recent mental health awareness post for more information on reducing stress, and anxiety
  6. Build up a social circle and support system. Volunteering opportunities will help to keep you in regular contact with others who enjoy and feel passionate about the same things that you do. Surround yourself with proactive and enthusiastic people and you will create a solid support system that pushes you to do your best and embrace opportunities.
  7. Volunteering makes you happy. Human beings are hard-wired to give to others, knowing that you are helping others releases a shot of hormones and stimulates brain activity that makes us feel good. The more we give, the happier we feel.
  8. Increase your self-confidence. Doing good for others and the community will provide a natural sense of accomplishment, pride and identity. The better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and strive for those future career goals.  If fear of change, the unknown or the prospect of meeting new people has a way of holding you back check out this post from Caree R Hunter about facing your fears
  9. Volunteering provides a sense of purpose. It’s not all just about building a long-term career, those who have retired but want to return to work in a small capacity can find meaning, direction and purpose by helping others. Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help to get you out of the house, take your mind off your own worries, keep you mentally stimulated, and add more get up and go to your life.
  10. Volunteering helps you stay physically healthy. If you are out of work, you could find yourself staying at home quite a bit. Once you are in a routine of staying home with no real purpose to get out and about it can be hard to find the enthusiasm and drive to stay fit, healthy and active. Volunteering opportunities help you to stay physically and mentally active, you would be surprised just how much you walk and move around when you are happily fulfilling meaningful tasks at your voluntary placement. 

Volunteer your time and skills to those who need it

Anyone can volunteer their talents, skills and experience to a worthwhile cause. If you have the time, there will be a volunteering opportunity somewhere that is perfect for you. 

Within a few weeks of lockdown as the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) rapidly swept across the country, over a million people volunteered their help to the NHS, community support groups and charitable organisations. 

On average in a 'normal' month of March, approximately 100 new applicants would sign up to voluntary placements but during the pandemic, volunteer centres have been reporting volunteer offers from the general public in their thousands. 

The NHS volunteer scheme saw three times the expected numbers with over 750,000 people registering to help via the phone app and across the country volunteer centres have registered over 250,000 extra people. 

The recruitment of volunteers in these numbers has not been seen in the UK since the second world war, when more than 1 million registered with the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) to help with the evacuation of children from UK cities during the Blitz. 

Don't be disheartened or put off by the high numbers of people who have volunteered throughout the recent lockdown, volunteers will always be needed and welcomed. Many local charities will be keen to attract new volunteers both now and, in the future, – especially as older people continue to isolate at home and as many of those who pledged voluntary time during lockdown find themselves returning to their normal jobs. 

Unsure what skills you have that will be useful to a voluntary placement? 

The most important things you can offer a voluntary placement are:

  • Your time
  • Your enthusiasm
  • Your desire to help

In addition to these things you will have gained some valuable transferable skills from your previous work placements, all of which will come in useful in a volunteering role:

  • Listening
  • Learning
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Researching
  • Administrative
  • Team working
  • Brainstorming
  • Creativity
  • Multi-tasking
  • Problem-solving
  • Typing
  • Communication
  • Telephony skills
  • Reporting

What volunteering opportunities are available?

NHS Volunteer RespondersThe health service in England has put out a call for volunteer responders to help medical staff with tasks such as delivering medicines from pharmacies; driving patients to appointments; bringing them home from hospital; and making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home.

At the time of writing (June 2020) the NHS Voluntary Responders registration program is on hold as they process over 750,000 applications and work with NHS England to establish their volunteer army. If you are hoping to register to volunteer as an NHS voluntary responder you can watch out for the registration lines reopening by checking for updates on their website

In the meantime, consider registering on one of the following national volunteering sites who always have organisations and charities with open volunteering opportunities:

Reach Volunteering is a great organisation for those who hope to offer their office work skills to a voluntary placement. Reach Volunteering matches people with specialist professional skills to charities who need their help.

The Trussell Trust food bank network have set up their own online schemes to match volunteers with food banks in their area.

British Red Cross Register with the British Red Cross for general volunteer roles with charities and community groups, you could even register as a Red Cross Reserve to be called upon in times of crisis. 

NCVO Volunteer Centres are local organisations that provide support to volunteers and the organisations that involve them. If you want to find an opportunity in your local area, this could be the ideal place to start. NCVO have a great Volunteering Centre finder on their site.

Volunteering Matters develop and deliver high impact volunteer-led solutions across the UK, they engage more than 23,000 volunteers and 115,000 beneficiaries every year through more than 100 active programmes across the UK.

If you are trying to think out of the box and reach out to smaller local organisations directly to offer your assistance, then consider some of these places who may just be hoping for an extra pair of hands:

  • Community theatres, museums, and monuments
  • Libraries or senior centres
  • Service organisations such as Lions Clubs or Rotary Clubs
  • Local animal shelters, rescue organisations, or wildlife centres
  • Youth organisations, sports teams, and after-school programs
  • Historical restorations, national parks, and conservation organisations

Wherever you choose to volunteer and no matter how much time you have available to offer, maximise the opportunity, enjoy the process and make plenty of friends and acquaintances along the way. 

Where next? 

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