Volunteering and interning both involve working and gaining experience and give you a competitive edge when it comes to finding a job!
For those just starting out in this increasingly competitive careers market, one way of improving your chances of bagging that first job is to prove you are employable by getting a work placement.
You can do this either by volunteering or through an internship. Although these are two different options, there is a certain amount of crossover.
Volunteering is giving up your time for a cause you believe in, for no financial gain. You can do this for a set period – maybe a couple of weeks helping out in an animal shelter, or more regularly, such as working for your local library for a few hours a week.
Professional internships are paid positions, where you get hands-on experience in a role that you wish to pursue as a career.
However, there are also lots of unpaid internships about, which are basically work experience and similar to what you’d undertake at school or college. You would not receive any pay for these, although you should get travel expenses.
Here are some top tips to keep in mind before interning or volunteering.
Do your research
Be sure you are aware of what type of internship you are being offered before you sign any contracts, as some unscrupulous employers are using a succession of long-term internships as a way to avoid employing people and paying salaries for full-time staff. But whatever the terms of your work, the fact that you have hands-on experience will look good on your CV, boost your confidence and allow you to gain new skills – and all of these things can only benefit future job-hunting attempts.
An internship provides direct experience of working in a particular role. It is usually undertaken by those who know what type of job they want to do. You can apply to do an internship straight out of school, after leaving college, post-graduation or later on in life. Many employers offer internship programmes, and they use them to assess a student or graduate’s capability. Some go on to recruit interns who made a good impression into full-time roles.
An internship can last a few weeks in the summer holidays or a year, depending on the sector and employer. Student internships tend to be shorter in length than graduate ones. But be very wary of doing unpaid internships. While working free for a few days or a week won’t do you much harm financially, and may bring some benefit by increasing your practical skills and knowledge, working without payment is not sustainable or beneficial in the long term. So be tough if need be.
Volunteers make up a large part of the charity sector. Volunteering shows your commitment to your chosen charity and is also a great way to get your foot in the door. For some people, it offers the chance to give something back to the community, or to make a difference to the people around them. For others, it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience and knowledge.
Maybe you are between jobs and at a loose end – volunteering can be a great way to fill any CV gaps – or maybe you are in a post you don’t enjoy and looking for new opportunities, in which case volunteering can provide you with something to do that is both challenging and rewarding.
Charity vacancies can be highly sought after, and you’re much more likely to be offered a full-time position or paid work if you have previously volunteered at a particular outfit.
Research by MovingWorlds found volunteering can help you in all steps of your career journey, from identifying your passion to standing out in the hiring process regardless of your career ambitions. It also discovered that, beyond helping you understand your strengths, being purposeful about volunteer work can also help you learn more about specific industries, gain experience working with different types of teams, and get exposure to what it’s like to work inside different sizes of organisations.
Don’t do loads of work for no pay
Employment legislation plainly states that anyone required to work for a minimum number of hours, who is set tasks and who adds value to a business, is classed as a worker and consequently is entitled to the national minimum wage. This applies to all businesses, regardless of size or profits, excluding charities. So, if you’re doing actual work for an organisation, and not just shadowing, for example, then you are entitled to some cash.
To find out how much, and to get more information on the subject, visit gov.uk/employment-rights-for-interns.
volunteering is valuable
Some 95% of career advisers agreed that volunteering ‘brings clarity to the job search’ and 76% strongly agreed that it made you ‘more likely to get your dream job’. They also found that 63% of managers said they ask about volunteering experience in interviews, and 66% specifically look for it and strongly value it.
It Shows enthusiasm
Volunteering doesn’t only demonstrate you’re passionate and altruistic; it also shows you are proactive. So include it on your CV as work experience – you don’t even need to mention it was a volunteer position; instead, put the focus on the skills you used and gained.
Volunteering can also help you to:
• Give something back to an organisation that has had a direct or indirect impact on your life.
• Make a difference to the lives of others.
• Help the environment.
• Feel valued and part of a team.
• Help other people who are less fortunate or who do not have a voice.
• Spend quality time away from the workplace or a busy lifestyle.
• Gain confidence and self-esteem.
• Develop existing skills and knowledge.
• Gain skills, knowledge and experience in a new field of work.
• Enhance your CV.
• Improve your employment prospects.
• Gain an accreditation.
• Use your professional skills and knowledge to benefit others (usually described as pro bono work).e