Step 4: The placement:
When you begin your placement you may be invited to an induction. This is where you will have an opportunity to find out more about the organisation, meet other volunteers and key staff and in many instances receive training. Some placements may have compulsory training such as first aid or child protection but for others it may be quite informal and designed to make you more familiar with your role and feel comfortable in the team.
Many placements will offer you an opportunity for some supervision and this can be a great chance to reflect on what you are doing, give feedback to the organisation about the support you may need and talk through how you can further develop in your role. In some placements you will have regular supervisions and in others they may offer supervision but wait for you to request it so make sure you do and make the most of your experience.
During supervisions ask for feedback on how you are doing, this can be invaluable to understanding what skills you are developing and recording them for your CV. Talk to the organisation about your career aims and discuss other training or development opportunities they could offer.
Enhancing the experience
Whilst volunteering there are a number of things you can do to help use the experience for your career development.
Recognition: While you are volunteering there are many ways to gain awards, recognition and accreditation. These may be offered by the placement but there are also a number of programmes that you can go to and use your current placement as evidence. GwirVol’s You Give You Get, is a booklet of many different programmes including the Duke of Edinburgh award and Youth Achievement Award. You can download the document from www.gwirvol.org and click on the You Give You Get logo at the bottom of the home page.
GwirVol’s website will also tell you about its own award, the Millennium Volunteers (MV) award, which recognises the hours you give to volunteering. You can claim a certificate when you have completed 50 and 100 hours of volunteering and then a 200 hour award of excellence. You can count hours from as many placements as you like so if you are volunteering in more than one place you will be surprised how quickly these can add up. You can register for the award online, detail your placements, count your hours and claim your certificates. For more information go to www.gwirvol.org and click on ‘Get involved’.
Even if you don’t apply for any awards, make sure you record your achievements from the placement. This could be the development of skills such as teamwork, leadership or communicating with lots of different people from different backgrounds, to recognised training and qualifications. Writing these down will be useful when it comes to applying for jobs, writing your CV or talking in interviews.
Personal development plans: Some organisations will support you to put together a personal development plan. This will help you to outline what you want to achieve and what steps you can take to do this. You will normally look at what skills you currently have and what new skills you might want to develop and how you can do this. Personal development plans often set dates by which to achieve your goals. A quick internet search for ‘personal development plan examples/templates’ will give you a range of examples of how a personal development plan can be put together. If you are keen to put a personal development plan together but your placement does not currently offer this, don’t be afraid to take an example or start one yourself and ask your placement to help you develop it further and help you to monitor your progress.
References: Many placements will be happy to offer a reference once you have been with them for a certain amount of time and have completed a certain amount of activity that enables them to confidently speak about who you are and what your suitability would be. For many young people who have not yet gained employment this may be their first referee and may be key to getting that first job.
Developing your CV and writing applications: When writing a CV or completing an application for a job, training or education don’t forget how much experience you gained from your volunteering and what skills you developed. Include these in the relevant experience section or your personal statement. They can be included under employment where there is no other relevant section but don’t forget to say they were voluntary placements.
If you are not sure how to structure your CV or what to include in general, there are some great templates on the Careers Wales website.
Talking about your experience in interviews: You can also talk about your experiences in interviews. It’s a chance to really sell yourself and explain what you have learnt from what you did.
Networking: In some instances, during your volunteering you may have an opportunity to meet other organisations or people that may help in your career development. If you are given a chance to go to conferences or networking events, say yes and enjoy meeting people and getting yourself known.