Whether you want to spend a year teaching English to children in Thailand, three months aiding rainforest conservation in Brazil or one evening a week helping at your local youth club, volunteering can do wonders – for your CV and for the organisations and people involved.
Voluntary work means giving time to a charity or not-for-profit. You won't be paid, but organisations may cover your expenses. If you're volunteering overseas, it's likely you'll need to fund yourself. Wherever you volunteer, you'll have the chance to to make a difference, meet new people and contribute to a good cause. With more than 200,000 registered charities in England and Wales and thousands of overseas opportunities, the choice of projects to get involved in is huge.
What will I be doing?
UK-based voluntary work could be hands-on – for example, mentoring young people or helping at an animal shelter – or behind the scenes – such as designing a website for a charity or organising events. Community and conservation projects are often the main feature of work projects abroad.
Keep notes about your experiences, as they will give you examples to draw on in your job interviews. Even if you decide that working in the voluntary sector isn't the career for you, you'll develop transferable skills through volunteering. Use our work experience tracker to keep a note of what you achieved and learned.
Tips for applying
If you're looking for voluntary work locally, try approaching a council for voluntary service (CVS) or volunteer centre: many will list volunteering opportunities on their websites. Or you could apply online at Do-it or TimeBank or explore organisations such as Volunteering Matters, which offers a range of volunteering opportunities. Your university careers service or union may also advertise volunteering opportunities.
For work abroad, the most important thing is to do your research to ensure that you'll be making a genuine difference and that you'll feel safe. Online forums can be helpful as you can ask other people about their experiences. Your careers service will also be able to help.
The skills you need will depend on the work you choose to do. However, the main qualities sought are commitment, flexibility, enthusiasm and a sense of humour.