Why not use your free time to volunteer?

IN today’s challenging economic climate, competition for jobs can be tougher than ever, but volunteering your time to a good cause can give you a competitive edge.

Patricia Frazer, careers manager for Banbridge, Lurgan and Lisburn in the Department for Employment and Learning’s Careers Service explains here how you can put your free time to good use:

“Have you ever felt the desire to help your community, but wondered how you would find the time?

“There are many real professional and personal advantages to giving your time for non-profit work. It can also be an excellent way to gain work experience and broaden your social network.

“Volunteer work will help strengthen your CV. Volunteer positions show future employers your drive and dedication. Such accomplishments demonstrate initiative, personal will, leadership skills and the ability to work hard.

“Another motivation for volunteering is to broaden your horizons and develop new skills that could be beneficial to your career. You may discover interests you were unaware of, learn more about a subject that appeals to you, or even choose a new career path!

“A non-profit job also opens the door to meeting many interesting and diverse people that can have an impact on your life, in one way or another.

“Surveys show most people feel they have benefited from meeting volunteer contacts and developed better interpersonal and communication skills while participating in charity work. Keep in mind that social contacts are also a potential career investment: an acquaintance could very well be the key to a new career opportunity. Networking is a valuable tool to increasing your business prospects. Don’t forget, a charitable group activity is the perfect setting in which to impress others and show off your abilities.

“If nothing else, volunteer work offers the opportunity to meet people who share your interests. Many adults find it difficult to meet new people outside of the work or home environment. Volunteering at a local organization can be a good way to make new friends.

“Perhaps the most important of all reasons to volunteer is to experience the sense of achievement and personal fulfilment that volunteering can bring.

“To find a volunteer job that is right for you, first consider your interests and determine which causes you are most passionate about. Do you enjoy working directly with people? Is caring for animals or wildlife more your style? Once you have determined the general type of work that inspires you, you can contact local organizations to find out if they are in need of volunteers. For a broad view of some of the positions that are available, check www.volunteernow.co.uk

“So what are the benefits of volunteer work for me? Volunteer work can:

Make you more aware of the skills, attitudes, qualifications and experience required by employers;

Give you an opportunity to learn more about yourself;

Motivate you to learn more about jobs and careers;

Create an awareness of the range of jobs within companies and help you gain insight into how industry works;

Provide an opportunity to learn new skills, develop people, communication and organisational skills, be part of a team, and use office equipment and IT;

Help you to understand what you enjoy and don’t enjoy about particular jobs;

Give you the chance to talk to people who are already doing the job to gain insight and knowledge; and

Make you more employable and can be included in your CV.

“Also good to remember is that in recent times with the competitiveness for places in colleges/universities, they stipulate the amount of experience they expect should you hope to secure a place on a particular course. This is especially the case for health related industries.

“So what are you waiting for? Log onto www.volunteernow.co.uk where the jobs and skill search lets you search online for volunteering opportunities throughout the United Kingdom. To search for voluntary work simply type in the search box what you are looking for and where.”

For further information log onto the web at www.nidirect.gov.uk/careers or call 0300 200 7820 to find your local careers adviser.