The benefits of volunteering for people being made redundant

Steve Harris, Volunteer Manager at Volunteering Gloucestershire, has these tips for those who are unemployed or just want to try something different:

Have you been made redundant recently? Are you looking to boost your CV in the interim, or try your hand at something else?

Being exposed to a range of different experiences can increase and enrich our creative output, and we should be on the look-out for diverse new ways of enriching our lives and those around us (Business Links 'Top Tips' 2009).

Becoming redundant can easily lead to a lack of inspiration and creative thinking in terms of next steps. It is not unusual following redundancy to experience a loss of confidence and sense of direction in terms of a future career.

Volunteering

Volunteering can offer exposure to a diverse range of experiences and give a taste of new career options. Venues range from schools, hospitals, libraries to recycling, care, conservation, sports and office settings (by no means exhaustive). Individuals can also use volunteering to maintain and develop the skills they have obtained in the workplace.

Examples of volunteer work:

  • A business manager volunteering as a trustee as a way of maintaining or gaining experience;
  • A machine operator volunteering in a recycling centre;
  • An advertising executive designing a marketing campaign for a charity; or
  • An office worker volunteering in what would be a familiar setting.

And so on....

Conversely, it is possible to have a completely different experience or follow a cause or a passion previously unavailable because of time or convenience. Some find being made redundant opens up the chance of a change of career and volunteering provides a safe taster to ensure this is the right direction for the individual.

Organisations that engage volunteers are becoming more skilled at involving volunteers in the short term. There is sometimes a fear on behalf of the potential volunteer that they will be expected to 'sign on' for a certain number of years, but organisations have need of people to engage on short term projects; be it research, archiving, fundraising campaigns, strategic planning or event management. There are endless possibilities.

Case study

Belinda, 28, who recently became redundant, describes her experience:

"I had only been in my job for three months, so didn't qualify for a redundancy package, which financially has hit me very hard. Overall the experience has been really difficult, as the job market has flattened out completely. I began volunteering as a way to pass the time, but it has given me a real opportunity to experience different working environments, meet new people and help me reassess what is important to me, and how I want my career to progress, which has been invaluable."

Belinda is now back in the workplace on a different career path.

When people volunteer they have a reason to get out of the house, meet other people and use their skills in a way which benefits others and their communities. This gives back a sense of satisfaction, increased self confidence and a huge sense of achievement. These are the people who will shine out in the job market.

To find out more about volunteering, contact your nearest volunteer centre or phone 0300 365 6700 or visit the Do-it website. Alternatively, you can email Steve at steve@thirdsectorservices.org.uk