What Skills Do You Gain From Volunteer Experience Which Make You Stand Out to an Employer?

By Nisha Rikhi


Through my volunteering work, I have gained several skills which have benefited other volunteer, vacation scheme and job applications. I propose to outline five key skills that can be gained by volunteering and explain why they make you stand out in job applications.


COMMUNICATION

This is a skill that is vital to both volunteers and employees. Success in all of my volunteer posts has been partly dependent on communication. As a result, I have built up significant experience in verbal and written communication. While I was volunteering at the Merstham Mix Community Café, I gained experience communicating verbally with both the kitchen staff and customers who were placing orders. This experience has fed through to my current Citizens Advice volunteer role, in which I am making telephone calls to clients with the purpose of interviewing them about their concerns and talking through possible solutions to their problems. My volunteer experience has been vital to me completing applications for other volunteer posts and vacation scheme placements. This is because my volunteer work allows me to illustrate to potential employers my ability to deploy written and verbal communication successfully.


INITIATIVE

Another important skill for employers. This is because they want employees who are able to spot a problem or a job that needs doing and take steps to deal with the issue independently of other team-members or supervisors. This is because volunteers are often in a position where they are working without much supervision. This means that the organisations that use volunteers often rely on a volunteer using their initiative to complete tasks that need to be done that day. When I was volunteering at the Merstham Mix Community Café, I was often allowed to work unsupervised by more experienced volunteers or supervisors. This means that I was left to my own devices to carry out the work that needed doing. On one particular day, I was working without much supervision, when I noticed that the coffee grinder needed refilling. Using my initiative, I went looking for the bag of coffee beans and refilled the grinder, thereby ensuring that other volunteers would be able to make cups of coffee for customers coming in later that day. This demonstrates how important initiative is, as the organisations that I have volunteered in have often relied on a volunteer’s initiative to successfully complete tasks and manage workloads. This is a skill that is valued by employers because they want to hire people who can work unsupervised, complete tasks to a high-standard and solve problems without needing a supervisor or manager to step in.


DELEGATION AND MULTI-TASKING

These are both important skills for a volunteer. This is because volunteers often have to perform lots of tasks and carry out dual roles during their volunteering experience. Volunteering with the Merstham Mix Community Café allowed me to develop my delegation and multi-tasking skills. This is because my role involved serving customers and assisting the kitchen staff. It was not unusual for me to be needed to serve customers and assist with organisational or cleaning tasks in the kitchen. This meant that I learnt how to multi-task very quickly as I often had to juggle the tasks I was being asked to complete. Delegation became essential to this. This is because I sometimes had to ask another volunteer to perform a task while I sorted out another task. For example, I once had to ask a volunteer to carry on cleaning the front of gloss cupboard doors while I cleared tables in the front-of-house. This demonstrates how multi-tasking and delegation are often valuable skills for volunteers, particularly if there are very few volunteers on duty at any one time. These skills will prove to be valuable to job applications as I am able to demonstrate that I can prioritise a workload and manage competing interests through my volunteer experience.


PROBLEM-SOLVING

This is a critical skill for law students. This is a skill that I have developed through my volunteering work at Citizens Advice. This is because clients email the organisation or ring up with a variety of often complex issues that they are seeking advice on. A fundamental part of an advisor’s role is to research the issues and come up with options that will allow the client to solve their problem. To do this successfully, one needs to be able to problem-solve. This is because an advisor often has to look at a multitude of sources and distil the information into easy-to-understand advice. This means that the client is reliant on the ability of the advisor to explain the different options available to them and how those options could help them solve the problems that they have presented with. It is clear that problem-solving is a vital skill to lawyers as this is a profession that has to provide advice and representation to individuals and businesses who come through the door wanting a solution to a legal problem. Therefore, it is clear that volunteering can provide valuable experience that would be beneficial to a lawyer, and indeed, a law firm.


TEAMWORK

One of the most vital in most volunteering environments. My volunteering role at the Merstham Mix Community Café required a high degree of teamwork. This is because working well with the other volunteers was essential to providing a seamless customer service. The necessity of teamwork is further demonstrated through my current volunteer role at Citizens Advice. This is because I have to work with a supervisor to talk through the issues that come up in client telephone interviews in order to decide the best approach to giving advice. These experiences are vital to applying to law firms. This is because lawyers are providing a service to clients, meaning that companies need people who are able to work as part of a team to provide good customer service. Hence, it is clear that volunteering is a good way of developing skills that will be useful to a future career, and desired by employers.


It is clear that volunteering provides great opportunities to develop critical skills which are desired by employers. My advice to any university student or professional seeking employment is to take up any available volunteering opportunities in order to enhance and develop transferable skills which are much sought after by potential employers.


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