How to kickstart your career by volunteering

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Volunteering has never had a higher profile. As well as doing some good, it can also have a positive impact on your career.  Steven Perryman explains all

It is apt that this year’s Volunteers’ Week – which runs until 7 June – kicked off over the same weekend as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Not only has the Queen handed out some 750 awards for voluntary service during her 60-year reign, but thousands of volunteers gave up their time over the weekend across the country to help her celebrate – including organising street parties and local events.

And that’s not all. This Summer 70,000 Games Makers and 8,000 London Ambassadors will give up their time to help put on the Olympic Games in London.

One thing is clear: in this of all years, volunteering has never had a higher profile.

So what does that mean for you? Well, there has never been a better time to get involved with a local charity or group. Volunteering can add vital skills to your CV, while also enabling you to make new contacts and friends. The possibilities are endless.

One of the most common pieces of feedback we receive from AAT members is about a lack of work experience. Many members find themselves in the unenviable position of achieving the AAT Accounting Qualification but without any relevant work experience. Volunteering is an ideal way to address this. Indeed, we wrote a very popular post in February showing you how to get started.

One such person to give it a go is former police officer Kirstie Allison, a student member of AAT who works as a purchasing officer at the State Hospital, an NHS highsecurity mental hospital in Carstairs, Lanarkshire. She also works one day a week as a volunteer with the Braveheart Association, a charity that helps people with heart problems.

Although she was studying for an AAT qualification, Kirstie was finding it difficult to move into the finance role she coveted as, despite her other skills, she did not have specific finance experience. ‘I kept getting knocked back,’ she says. ‘They said because I have no finance experience they couldn’t consider me.’

So, with the help of AAT, she took the unpaid position. It’s been a real boon. ‘I was given the post of bookkeeper,’ she says. ‘It’s been a huge task. I’ve been exposed to a lot of finance work and have been put in charge of the whole finance system: doing the payroll, creating spreadsheets to show income and expenditure over the past three years, reporting to funders and board members, doing reconciliations, budgeting, forecasting, developing codes, doing profit and loss, balance sheets, trail balances, tax. It’s a great deal of responsibility.’

Now, having completed her AAT course in June and backed by seven months’ experience as a finance officer, she hopes for a job in finance. ‘Working as a volunteer is something I would definitely recommend. It’s certainly beefed up my CV on the finance side.’

So, there you have it, Volunteers’ Week is an ideal chance to get that vital work experience, whilst doing some good at the same time. It’s a win-win, so what are you waiting for?

Want to volunteer but don’t know how to get started? Then check out our post showing you five ways to find work experience through volunteering. Alternatively, visit the official Volunteers’ Week website.

Steven Perryman is AAT Comment's former Content Editor.

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