University culture is historically entwined in philanthropy, charity and activism. Students play a focal role in the promotion of social improvement and empowerment; this new generation of leaders have the power to shape the world through social change. ‘So how do I make a difference’, I hear you ask. Students may not have the monetary means to contribute to charity, but it would be a mistake to believe that financial contribution is the only way to help a cause. How about volunteering?
Volunteering provides the opportunity to apply skills and education to a worthwhile organisation – and it doesn’t cost a penny. The unique characteristic of volunteering is that it is mutually beneficial. At the same time as helping an organisation to function, you will be setting yourself aside from other students who choose not to volunteer, elevating yourself above and increasing your employment prospects.
Here’s a brief history of student volunteering.
Meet Jess, one of the Communications and PR Assistants at Groundwork London. Jess reflects on the impact that volunteering has had on her life.
What inspired you to volunteer?
I’ve always wanted to work in a charitable organisation and I knew that after graduation I would have a fair amount of knowledge but a lack of evidence of my ability to apply it. After some hunting, I found a great three month role in London, giving me the opportunity to explore the capital while learning more about communications and PR.
What were your biggest concerns when considering volunteering while studying?
I was most worried about financial and time restrictions. Travelling to London once a week was an added expense and I had a lot of uni work to get through. But really I needn’t have worried. The organisation paid all of my expenses and was so flexible with my working days and times, so when the work piled up at university, I could work less. I found that although I was giving up 8 hours of my week, I was learning so much that was relevant to my course and practising skills that I could apply to my studies, so I wasn’t missing out.
What was your favourite part of volunteering?
Getting to explore another city once a week and meeting new people was great. But also the satisfying and rewarding feeling of being able to apply the skills and knowledge I had learnt in my degree made it all seem worthwhile. I also found that being in an office environment really motivated me; I could finally see an end goal and imagine where I wanted to be when I graduated. It was inspiring!
How much do you think volunteering helped you get your job at Groundwork?
A lot. When applying for jobs I often found that much of the relevant experience I had came from volunteering, so I knew that the time I had invested had benefited me on both a professional and personal level. Volunteering helped me take that first step into my career and I would advise any students to make time to do the same.
If you are an organisation and believe that a student volunteer would be valuable to you, we can help you recruit and manage someone. If you think that volunteering could be for you, contact the Volunteering Local service relevant to your borough to find out how we can help. We work in Barnet, Brent, Hounslow, Kingston and Westminster.