Volunteering for a charity, voluntary organisation or associated fundraising/statutory body involves undertaking work that benefits society or the environment and can give you work experience in this sector. As a volunteer you should be entitled to reimbursement of out of pocket expenses.
Volunteering cannot be simply defined. It can be thought of in terms of the voluntary or third sector (i.e. charities, NGOs), where many volunteering opportunities are to found, but it cannot be defined as such. Volunteering England's interpretation is as follows:
An unpaid activity where someone gives their time to help an organisation or an individual who they are not related to.Volunteering England
This definition is helpful because it means we can think about volunteering in the broadest possible sense. Within the confines of Durham University the term volunteer could very easily be applied to someone involved with Student Community Action (SCA); it can, however, be as easily applied to someone with a position of responsibility in a college or society. It is important not to forget this when considering how and why to volunteer.
Career choice and employability may not necessarily be at the top of your reasons for volunteering; indeed there is no reason why they should be! It is primarily about doing something positive and engaging in an activity that you consider important. Having said that, an incredibly useful by-product of volunteering is the potential impact it can have on your employability in the wider job market and your own career awareness.
Internships and work experience placements are more commonly associated with career planning but volunteering can have significant career value. If you are considering a career in the development or third sectors it is essential to demonstrate a strong portfolio of volunteering because of the strong emphasis on working positively with individuals and communities. It is appropriate to professions such as social work, youth work, medicine, nursing, counselling and psychology. It is limitless in scope and consequently presents opportunities to engage in a myriad of different roles. Volunteering as a sales assistant in a charity shop is undoubted evidence of retail sector experience; volunteering in a hospital or care home is a fantastic foundation for health and social care professions.