Jade from England - Service Civique at Pistes Solidaires in France
How volunteering can boost your professional skills and personal development
Things are pretty tough for young people starting out in the world of work at the moment but I’ve got some good news for you: there’s a way you can gain professional experience, choose the field you want to work in, and in some cases, it’s fully funded. Sounds like a distant dream? It isn’t.
So, why volunteer?
Firstly, you can make a real difference to society, both in your country and in the international community. You’ll be working with accredited, experienced organisations who have experience in the field and who are taking tangible steps to improve their local communities, the climate change situation, support systems for immigrants and refugees, education for all, and much, much more.
Volunteering is also a kinder way to ease yourself into the professional world. It’s a chance to discover, to learn from others, to be guided by a tutor along the way. And all the while, you’ll be gaining valuable experience that will stay with you throughout your entire life and career. Do your research on the organisation beforehand. Look at their website, their social media. Are you interested in their projects? In their values? Do the tasks in the advert match your skill set? These are the kind of questions you need to ask yourself.
“Volunteering, especially abroad, comes with its own challenges”
Not to mention the memories you’ll make. The silhouette sunset photos of volunteering with friends (you all know the ones I mean) are there for a reason – those magical moments really do happen. Now, volunteering, like anything, isn’t always plain sailing. Sometimes you’ll be sharing your living space with others, which comes with its own challenges. Maybe it’s your first time in a professional environment – it’s a steep learning curve. Perhaps you’ve never been abroad or so far away from home for so long. Maybe you don’t speak the language. Volunteering, especially abroad, comes with its own challenges. I’ll tell you a secret: I’m SO GLAD I had to live through the difficult moments (trust me, there were a lot of them!) during my own experiences. I’m stronger for it, I’m more mature, open-minded, and I learnt a lot about myself on a personal level. Recognising how you react in certain situations is the first step if you want to progress.
Volunteering doesn’t always mean you have to finance the whole thing yourself. The European Union has a tonne of projects to get young people involved in society and, I can say this from personal experience, it’s a decision that could change your whole life.
You might have already heard of Erasmus. Typically, it’s for people who are studying and would like to study or work abroad for up to 12 months. Check out the website : https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/node_en
In France, there’s a programme called the Service Civique – that’s what I’m doing at the moment – which lets European’s work in France and French residents can even go to another European country: https://www.service-civique.gouv.fr/
There’s also the European Solidarity Corps, everything’s funded, from the journey, to the accommodation and meals. That’s what’s so incredible about the programme: young people from any background at all can take part : https://europa.eu/youth/solidarity/placements_en
“Quite honestly, volunteering might be the catalyst that changes your life”
So, what are you waiting for? The European Solidarity Corps recently launched its new website and an online training programme to help future volunteers discover more about the programme and the steps to take to begin this new adventurer. First you need to register or log in to your ESC account. Here’s the link. Then look for the online training section.
Show off your experience!
Oh, and don’t forget to showcase what you’ve learnt during your time volunteering. Remember to explain the professional value of your volunteering experience during a job interview. Sure, you were a volunteer, but you still took part in professional activities in a professional environment and you learnt just as much as an intern or an employee during that time! There are so many ways to make your CV stand out, especially in our digital world. Try LinkedIn, for example, or add some colour and graphics to visually show your abilities. You don’t need to be a graphic designer – templates are available online or you could even play around with the chart and shape functions in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint. Or have a look at Canva, it was originally created for making posters, an eye-catching way to present yourself when applying for jobs. They even have a dedicated CV template section now.
The experience you’ll gain through volunteering is invaluable and these tools will certainly help to show that during an interview.
So, best of luck for your new adventure! I hope that, like me, you’ll look back on your experience with pride, with satisfaction and, above all, the desire to do it all over again…