Una's Blog


72 Volunteering and other experience

graphic-4by Una Hearne.

Are you looking for work and finding the search frustrating? Are you searching for your purpose or passion? Volunteering could be a good way to use some of your time as part of your search strategy.

Here are a few reasons it might work for you:


  • You can get relevant experience in an area you are interested in.
  • If you are particularly interested in a few specific organisations and you can get a volunteer position (or internship) you could get a really good feel for the organisations – culture, work, people and find out if you really would like to work there. It also allows the organisation to se you in action and even if there is no job at the time, you will have made an impression. If it is a good enough impression, you will be remembered when other opportunities come up.
  • You benefit from all the rewards of work apart from money. These should not be underestimated for their importance to you, for example: learning and development (both as a person and a professional); social interaction and support; experience of an area of work; fulfilment, recognition and appreciation; increased confidence and self esteem; fresh ideas; keeping your skills up to date… I could go on!
  • You will be meeting new people – that is networking that is! – and you just never know who is going to connect you with your next opportunity, who is going to be a real support or inspiration for you, who might be your new best friend.

Temporary work (temping) is another option, better than volunteering in that it is paid but more restricted in that you can’t choose the organisations you get to work for. Temping is a great way to get a feel for different organisations without any commitment on either side and you can pick and choose when you work. The clearer you are when you sign up with agencies, the more likely you will get work that suits you.

There is a health warning with volunteering and temping in that there has to be some kind of fair match between the level of security or pay in a job and the level of commitment you offer them.  For example volunteering should be for agreed and limited lengths of time to ensure you are not exploited. Short term contracts should carry a higher fee than permanent jobs or have a good chance of leading to a permanent job.

I have strong opinions on exploitations and I think zero hours contracts are exploitative. I don’t think they should be legal. There are some limited circumstances in which one of these contracts might suit you and if so, by all means go ahead and take it. But if you feel exploited, look elsewhere for work. If people don’t take these contracts they will fade away.

I also have strong opinions on employee responsibility. Small businesses in particular cannot afford to carry people so I understand the reluctance to offer permanent jobs. I’ve witnessed the terrible consequences to a good business of giving a permanent job to a person who does not wish to work or is incompetent in a role. If it costs the business too much it can put the business, and everyone else’s jobs in jeopardy.

I would love to see more flexible models of work available with sufficient protection for employess. And if they make me supreme ruler of the universe I will ensure it happens. Until then it is up to each of us to figure out what is right for us, to keep working towards what we want  and accept no less than we deserve.


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