Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thing 22 - Volunteering to gain experience

Hello! So Thing 22 encourages participants to consider volunteering to gain experience. I'm certainly not going to quibble with Jo's blog. I agree, sad as it may be, that in this time of infrequent job vacancy opportunities, volunteering may be the only way to get out of the Experience Gap Catch-22 situation. This may not only apply to new professionals. Established professionals, seeking a career change, may also be in similar situations. Or for that matter those returning to work after a career break! Volunteering can be good at whatever stage of your career! 

I also feel strongly that organisations which take on volunteers should provide lots in return to their volunteers and definitely not substitute paid professional roles for volunteers! CILIP have an excellent policy statement on using volunteers in public library services, but the principles will apply in other sectors too.

My experiences of professional volunteering have mainly been on CILIP Special Interest Group Committees at divisional and national level. These roles have provided me with wider professional knowledge, energy and transferable skills (chairing meetings, taking minutes, organising events etc). At the same time they have always been fun, confidence building and have left me with a network of fabulous, supportive and amazing contacts. I appreciate that the "day job" is becoming increasingly pressurised, stressful and burdensome. And although volunteering adds to these, it also provides huge rewards of wider perspectives, a different working regime, and a whole load of professional reassurance or inspiration. Although it can be hard work, for me at least, it's good to wear a number of "different hats".

Wearing a different hat. Rhododendron clearing in Snowdonia.
Copyright of the Author.  
I would also add that work can take up so much of our lives, and although I love my career and profession, it's a real bonus to have other interests. I use volunteering with the National Trust as one of these. My NT work enables me to mix with a different group of people, undertake very physical work and be outside at stunning locations. All of these in combination provide a very real tonic to life, and is something that I recommend to anyone who likes the outdoors, values our environment, and who want to give something back.

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