Charlotte tells us how much she grew in confidence after volunteering at a charity shop and how it created opportunities for her.
I began volunteering at a charity shop in my local town in the summer of 2016, just before starting my second year of sixth form. At first, it was the typical teenager thing of getting some experience to put on my UCAS form in the run-up to university applications, however it quickly became much more than that.
I started on Saturday mornings, and quickly settled in with the shop team. The manager and other staff and volunteers were all so friendly and accommodating, and we all got on very well. It was also nice to have something to look forward to if I’d had a particularly stressful day; it gave me the opportunity to completely focus on something else for a few hours and still feel like I was being productive. When I left the role upon moving to university, I was so pleased that I had done it.
I’d had a great team to work with, it had given me a much-needed confidence boost and above all, I loved the feeling that I was making a difference in some way.
It was also a positive experience in terms of employment; living in a rural area meant that getting paid employment, particularly at a young age, was quite a challenge, and so I was grateful to gain experience from my volunteer position instead. I firmly believe that both the skills and confidence I gained from my volunteer role enabled me to get a job as a student ambassador for my university, and that experience has all led to me working in the role that I am in now at St Peter & St James Hospice.
One of the great things about volunteering, particularly as a young person, is that there is often much more room for flexibility than there is with a regular paid job. Most places will allow you to work at the times that suit you, which means that volunteering hours can also often be worked around paid jobs and studying.
I would highly recommend taking up a volunteering role if you are a student, for so many reasons! There is a huge variety of roles available, so you’ll inevitably be able to find something that takes your fancy or that will provide relevant experience for your future career plans; the great levels of flexibility; the skills and experience that will help you when it comes to paid employment; gaining confidence; and that wonderful feeling of making a difference, whatever you are doing.
Sometimes volunteering in a sector that is completely separate from your area of study / career plans and is just of interest to you can also be a fantastic idea – you’ll have an even wider range of experience and it’ll be something for you to enjoy and use as down-time even.