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The feel good factor of volunteering

27 October 2016

As well as managing projects, volunteering taught me how to work with people.

Ken Hy, Highway Engineer, Jacobs UK Ltd

I think I started volunteering around my friend’s 21st birthday when we had a reading week at uni. There were some posters up saying there were lots of volunteering opportunities. One immediately stood out. It was helping the London Wildlife Trust (LWT) doing woodland conservation. That means tree felling and I thought ‘why not?’ We turned up at their centre in Kings Cross and they took us to Greenford. It surprised us all how much knowledge goes into cutting down trees. We all loved it.

I got more seriously into it when I had the chance to set up my own volunteering project at uni. We got a grant of about £150 to set up five volunteer projects, again working with LWT and Islington Council. For ‘Project Wildlife’ we did things like cleaning the ponds and rehoming frogs, stuff like that. Generally all wildlife related and outside in trees and parks. When you go to these places you learn skills you’d never be able to learn otherwise.

I learned a lot from managing my own volunteering project because I ran it. People had no real incentive to take part, so I had to persuade them. I had to advertise the project and approach people to get involved. I also learned about managing and communicating with the people I was working with – arranging timescales and stuff like that. It’s almost like managing a business. I’m proud to say the university is now using my project as a benchmark to encourage students to volunteer.

By the time it came to looking for jobs, I think my volunteering experience helped my application stand out. When it came to my job interview I still remember how it just came up as an interest of mine. We then kept talking about it. Everyone goes to uni, everyone gets a degree. Nothing stands out about that. Not everyone volunteers. Firms are always looking for someone different. Volunteering shows a lot of positive things about you and your character. It shows you can get things done.

If you want something on your CV to make yourself stand out you shouldn’t have any second thoughts about volunteering. I found it invaluable. I think students often lack confidence with their job applications and interviews, simply because they lack work experience. It’s certainly a common theme for people I’ve known. I think volunteering goes some way towards filling that void. It can give you skills you can’t get in other ways. It gives you confidence and a sense of satisfaction if you like. It’s got that feel good factor. Just go out there and try it. You never know, you might like it.

Ken volunteered with the help of City, University of London's 'Community Volunteering service' which offers support to all students and recent graduates who are interested in volunteering. They also support students to realise their own volunteering project ideas.