Volunteering is an exciting way to kick-start your career! We often think of volunteering as a job someone does to help the community, but did you know it can also help YOU develop skills, knowledge and valuable work experience that employers need?

Job adverts often ask for 3 to 5 years work experience, and this is a big problem for young people straight out of high school or college. Volunteering is a great opportunity for you to gain work experience to meet job requirements and develop your skills. It also shows that you are determined, passionate, and interested in helping your community.

What is volunteering?

A volunteer is anyone who freely gives their time, effort and skill to benefit another person, group, community or organisation. Volunteering has traditionally been seen as an act of charity, however, nowadays there are so many forms of volunteer work done for a variety of different reasons. We are now beginning to think of volunteering as an exchange. You are exchanging your passion, time and energy for work experience, skills and networking opportunities.

What are the benefits of volunteering?

Volunteer work or programmes can add many benefits to your career development, including:

  • Gain experience to include on your CV.
  • Explore different career opportunities, jobs and sectors.
  • Learn new skills that you can include on your CV.
  • Develop your soft skills such as good communication skills and leadership qualities that can help you in your interview or next job
  • Develop professional networks that can connect you to more opportunities.

How to become a volunteer? Things you need to know.

  • Most volunteer opportunities are not advertised. You need to volunteer or offer your services to the company or institution of your choice.
  • You can visit the organisation or look them up on the internet or Facebook to find out about their opportunities. You can also visit sangonet.co.za to find opportunities.
  • Non-profit organisations such as NGOs, churches, mosques and temples or community projects usually need volunteers.
  • Every volunteer opportunity is different and depends on the programme, sector and your skill level. Some volunteering programmes require you to work a few hours a week, while others are considered full-time work.
  • Volunteering is mostly unpaid, although some organisations do provide allowances to cover transport costs or sometimes provide you with a meal.
There are volunteering opportunities in most sectors, including environment and conservation, health and welfare, education, disability, sports and recreation, etc.

Can I include any volunteer work on my CV?

Yes, you should. However, make sure you put it on your CV to show how it helped you develop your skills, work ethics or develop an interest in the job you are applying for.

How to make sure you get the most out of your volunteering experience:

  • Consider whether you can afford to volunteer without being paid (e.g. can you afford transport costs?)
  • Know what organisation, project or social issue you want to get involved in.
  • Have an idea of what role/position you would like to gain experience.
  • Know what type of skills you want to develop.
  • Know how much time you can give.
  • Be open to learning new things and meet new people.
  • Have fun and be passionate about your work.

Even though it is often unpaid, volunteering is an excellent way to do what you enjoy, meet new people, gain valuable experience and skills while you lend a helping hand and get exposure to the work environment.

Next Step: Find out more about learnerships and how it can help you get a qualification and experience.