Moving from volunteering into paid work

Volunteering can be a good way of meeting people and learning new skills, but it's also a great way to learn what support you need to work (such as reasonable adjustments) without the stress of trying to hold down a job. By understanding what working patterns suit you, you'll have a better idea of what jobs suit you.

You should get as much from volunteering as the organisation you’re helping. The best reason to volunteer is because you want to. This could be because you're gaining useful experience or because you enjoy it.

Agreeing goals with your manager in a volunteer agreement can help you to get more from volunteering. Reviewing these goals at regular meetings can also help.

Getting a paid job where you volunteer

Some volunteers move into paid jobs where they volunteer, but this is not guaranteed. If you are interested in a paid role, ask your manager to let you know if any position becomes available. By asking that, you will show your willingness and desire for a paid job. Be careful not to volunteer for longer than you want because your manager suggests that volunteering might lead to paid work. You could be being exploited if you are doing work that your colleagues are paid to do.

Good volunteer roles

If you’ve applied for a job you want and haven’t been successful, a good volunteer role or training can help you to get the skills and experience you need.

Here are some things to look out for if you want to volunteer.

Before you start

  • What would you like to get out of the role?
  • Is there training?
  • Do you know what is expected of you?
  • Is there an induction?
  • Have they asked if you need adjustments?
  • Have you got a written volunteer agreement?
  • Will you get a professional reference and after how long?

While you’re volunteering

  • Do you feel welcome?
  • Are you included in social events?
  • Do you feel part of the organisation?
  • Are you asked for feedback?
  • Is communication good?
  • Does the organisation understand your work?
  • Do you have regular meetings with your team?
  • Have you got the workplace adjustments you need?

When you finish

  • Were you thanked?
  • Do you know who to contact about references?

Agree goals with your manager

The volunteering roles that are most likely to lead to paid work are ones that support you and help you to learn new skills.

You can ask your manager questions like:

  • What sort of skills can I learn here?
  • I want to learn [a skill]. Can you teach me this?
  • What training opportunities do you offer volunteers?
  • Can we change [hours, work] to suit my needs?
  • Are there any other benefits I'll get from volunteering with you?

Clear, positive answers show that your manager is interested in what you want to get from volunteering.

Writing this up in a volunteer agreement can help. This should cover:

  • a named contact at the place you’re volunteering (the DWP will need this)
  • how to claim expenses
  • training
  • regular meeting dates
  • what's expected of you as a volunteer
  • how the organisation will support you
  • how your role supports the organisation
  • a timeline for when you will meet your goals (this could include an end date).

Some organisations will have a standard volunteer agreement. If the place you’re volunteering doesn’t, you and your manager could write one.

Sample volunteer agreement

Meetings with your manager and team

Regular meetings are a chance to see how things are going. Check your goals from the last meeting. Ask if there is anything you’d like to change about your volunteering role.

When you stop volunteering

  • Try to give your manager some notice if you can.
  • Update your CV or equivalent (such as LinkedIn).
  • Make sure that someone has agreed to give you a reference.
  • Write down a list of what you achieved.
  • Build your network! Add people you've met on LinkedIn or Twitter.

Networking to find work

Last reviewed by Scope on: 23/04/2018

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