23 Feb 2021 Blog: Food Active’s top tips on successful volunteering
Volunteering – it is an integral part of your university journey and can offer enormous personal and professional benefits.
Firstly, volunteering widens your social circle and is an opportunity to meet new people, potential new friends or future employers. It will also give you the chance to develop important workplace skills such as communication, teamwork, problem solving and planning and if you haven’t had a full time job yet, relevant volunteer work can be a good talking point in a job interview to showcase your skills and experience. Volunteering is also important for you to see if a certain career path is right for you, and sometimes, that can only be realised through practical experience.
Even if you don’t secure a volunteer role at your chosen organisation, any volunteer work shows potential employers that you are hard-working and willing to give up your own time to help others – essential in the competitive working world we live in! Remember, a volunteer role doesn’t have to last for months – even just a week or two can be beneficial.
As part of your degree, you may be required, or want to, undertake a volunteering role. The Health Equalities Group have a long history of supporting students with placements and volunteering opportunities – so much so, three members of our current staff volunteered prior to securing a position at the organisation! Together the team has collated a list of top tips for securing relevant experience in your chosen field.
Top tips for securing a volunteering role or placement
- A good CV and email is the best place to start. This will be your first impression to staff, so make sure you get it right! Ask the Careers Team at your university to proof read it for you.
- Do your research on the organisation you want to volunteer for – show that you know what they do and think about what areas you would like to get involved in.
- Make sure the first email you send the organisation is professional and has no grammar mistakes (easily done!) – and if you don’t hear back within a few weeks, don’t be afraid to send a follow up email or phone call. This shows you are keen and interested in the organisation.
- Try and find a ‘USP’ of the organisation you are interested in working with, it shows you have done your research and focused on something specific that stood out to you – also a good talking point.
- If you secure an interview, a good first impression is essential, so make sure you look presentable and smile – even if it is over Teams/Zoom!
- Be clear about what you can offer an organisation, it needs to be a two-way process – it is more than you just getting experience.
- Always say YES to any opportunity.
Top tips on being a great volunteer
- Once you have secured your volunteering role, try to take the initiative. As soon as you have found your footing, it’s really important to show that you can be trusted and left alone to get on with your work.
- Go a step further with a task you have been set, if necessary – it shows you are a keen and hard worker!
- Show an interest in what the organisation are doing and offer to help where you feel you can contribute. Ask questions about the day to day role/tasks to show your interest.
- Make sure to keep a record of any work and projects you are involved in during your placement to add to your CPD (Continued Professional Development) folder.
My journey from Volunteer to Project Support Officer
I was introduced to Food Active during second year of my undergraduate degree, Food Development and Nutrition, from a lecturer who invited a member of the team, Beth Bradshaw, to deliver a talk to my cohort. At the time I was looking for a public health volunteering opportunity so made sure to research the organisation before the talk to find out about the work they are involved in. After the presentation, I introduced myself to Beth and asked about any volunteering opportunities. Even though there were no opportunities at the time, I followed this up a few months later and secured a three month placement over the summer.
I was required to undertake a 4 week placement during third year of my undergraduate degree and as I already had an established relationship with Food Active, I secured another placement with them. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic and the first lockdown, a lot of my fellow student’s placements had to be cancelled but as I had previously worked with Beth and the rest of the team, we managed to figure out an efficient way of working remotely via emails, Zoom and MS Teams. I carried on my volunteering position working two days a week until December 2020, when I was offered a paid, part-time position. My work includes writing position statements on various health-related issues, developing toolkits and lesson plans, writing blogs and assisting with research.
The ongoing pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives, including university life and volunteering. Many volunteering roles may not be available at the moment, however, there are still remote opportunities worth seeking out! Look out for opportunities online; Twitter is a great platform. Make sure you have a professional Twitter account and are following relevant people you could potentially contact.
If you are interested in volunteering with Food Active, please send your CV and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that we do not have any volunteering opportunities at the moment, but will be in touch with you if any arise in the near future.