Give a little free time to earn some big breaks

Boost your job prospects by contributing some time to a worthy cause, advises Stephen Hoare

Whether you are in the sixth form, at university, or taking a gap year, volunteering is a good way of boosting your CV. The work is often highly motivating and volunteers develop confidence and skills they would not otherwise have acquired.

Rosina St James, 21, has been volunteering since she was 14. Now studying for a degree in government at London School of Economics, she chose her area of study on the basis of her voluntary youth work. “At school I put my name forward to be a member of the youth parliament for Croydon,” she says. “I got elected to represent young people in the borough and we organised things such as a mobile recording studio and a cheerleading team. It was all youth-led.”

By the time she had completed her term as a member of the youth council, St James had attracted the attention of the council’s integrated youth support service. She now works for them part-time.

“I started out as a volunteer but after a year or two I got taken on as a part-timer, researching current provision for young people in the borough and helping put together funding bids. I now get paid five or six hours a week in term time and I work through my long holidays,” says St James.

Employers’ advise including and highlighting all volunteering activities on your CV, as it will boost your job prospects. Cable & Wireless hires 30 to 40 apprentices and around 10 graduates each year. “We look on volunteering and community work as a very positive thing,” says Lisa Anthony-Righton, senior resourcing manager.

“It displays willingness to learn, while volunteering overseas shows exposure to different cultures and social situations and is a sign of flexibility.” She says volunteering is useful in filling any gaps between work and study on a CV and advises that volunteer positions can be listed using a separate heading, or come under activities and personal interests.

Volunteering doesn’t stop the moment you start your first job. Anthony-Righton explains: “A lot of people choose to apply to Cable & Wireless because of our approach to corporate social responsibility. We encourage staff to become mentors to pupils in school and we have set up a partnership with a special needs school in Maidenhead to offer internships and prepare their students, many of whom suffer from Asperger’s syndrome or autism, to work in an office,” she says.

A study by the Institute for Employment Studies, Volunteering: Supporting Transitions, has found young people are using volunteering to develop skills that can inform or enhance their university studies. “Volunteers develop hard skills such as networking and organisation, and soft skills, such as communication and problem solving. With tuition fee rises and unemployment, the consequences of making the wrong choice of study are more extreme than ever. Volunteering also gives young people the chance to try things out before they commit themselves to an area of study,” says Becci Newton, a research fellow at IES.

Several organisations and websites specialise in helping young people find work in a local charity or community project. The Directgov website, for example, lists thousands of volunteer positions and work experience placements. National Citizen Service aims to give 11,000 school children the chance to learn new skills and get involved in community events this summer. The National Young Volunteers Service finds volunteer positions for young people aged 14 to 25. Earlier this year, it ran a campaign, “Big Society’s Big Mouth”, a website to raise awareness among young people and ask them what role they wanted to play in society and what issues matter most to them.

Charlotte Barnes, a campaign assistant at the volunteering charity Vinspired, for 16- to 25-year-olds, experimented with career choices while studying drama and theatre studies at the University of Kent. “I got work experience teaching drama in schools and worked unpaid as a teaching assistant at a primary school before realising teaching wasn’t for me. Then I volunteered in the marketing and press team at a couple of small local theatres and found I loved the work,” she says. Now she helps to run the website, which links students with local opportunities. “We’ve got three apps for Apple, Android and Blackberry, which students can download for free. It has a GPS map and helps you find the nearest volunteering opportunities to where you live.”

Ste Prescott, 20, from Page Moss in Liverpool, is a member of the youth advisory board for Vinspired. He left school at 16 with few qualifications and volunteering helped him get back into education. His passion for the internet led to a two-year BTEC qualification for IT practitioners at St Helens College. Helping to set up the Vinspired website has given him the confidence to start a web design company, Ste Prescott Designs.

It has truly paid off. “I was National Digital Volunteer of the Year sponsored by Toshiba,” says Prescott. “At Vinspired I’m helping to design a volunteering website for Tesco.”

Besides supporting academic applications, volunteering allows young people to try out possible career paths or even set them on a path of study, building confidence and self-esteem and providing them with direction. “Volunteering has given me opportunities that I would not have been able to tap into.

If you don’t volunteer you haven’t got the edge some people have got,” says St James, who believes volunteering has given her networking skills, confidence and a career direction. After her degree, her ambition is to take a law conversion course and apply to work as a barrister in a chambers specialising in human rights cases.



News
Brand said he
people
Sport
Adam Lallana, Juan Cala, Andy Carroll and Cameron Jerome
sportThe latest news and scores
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
tvGrace Dent on TV
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Sport
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain drives in the rain during the qualifying session of the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai
sport
Extras
indybestFake it with 10 best self-tanners
Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sportThe city’s fight for justice after Hillsborough is embodied in Steven Gerrard, who's poised to lead his club to a remarkable triumph
News
peopleOrlando Bloom the pin-up hero is making a fresh start
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
The North Korean TV advert for Taedonggang beer, that became a YouTube hit
food + drinkAnd what did it take to set up a taste test back in Wiltshire?
Arts & Entertainment
filmLife for Leslie Mann's can be challenging sometimes
Voices
For music lovers: John Cusack with his vinyl collection in 'High Fidelity'
voices...but don't forget rest of the year
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: KS1 KS2 Crewe Teacher Perm Ch...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education is the lea...

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: KS1 KS2 Teaching Cheshire

Primary Teacher

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Long term position in large p...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit