Summer Career Fix: Do some Volunteering

What are you doing this summer to help you stand out from the crowd? 

Gary’s bags are packed and he’s ready to jet off to places far sunnier than Cumbria. But he’s not off for a lazy beach holiday – he’s going to be doing one small thing each week that will help in his future career. He doesn’t know what that career is just yet, but that’s ok – most of these things can be done even if you aren’t 100% sure what you want to do. And if you need some help finding your path, you can always email the Careers & Employability service for some advice and guidance:

So what’s Gary doing this week?

He’s finding out about volunteering opportunities!

Volunteering is a great way to gain really useful work experience and skills, try something new or different, and do something worthwhile and rewarding. Furthermore, it will give your future job applications a competitive edge, as it will enable you in job applications or interviews to draw on real life practical examples. For example, employers often want to know what experience you’ve had of working in a team, communicating with a range of different people, or problem solving. So volunteering helps you build up a useful skills bank.

If you are not sure what to do, consider something new to see if you like it. Lots of volunteering roles offer a trial session, so you can get a feel for whether you would like to become more involved.

Volunteering is also useful for getting an inside view on what the workplace is like and seeing what other people in other roles do. Importantly too, it develops your network. You’ll meet other volunteers and make contacts which could lead to other things.

There are lots of different ways you can volunteer. These are just a few ideas to get started.

University of Cumbria Student Union (UCSU)

UCSU have dozens of different volunteering opportunities, and also help students to facilitate their own volunteering experiences – so if there’s something you want to do, let them know and they’ll help you make the most of it. Maybe you’d like to apply the learning from your course, develop your skills, help people in the local community or just try something completely new. Visit to register and create your volunteering profile or email for more information. UCSU runs volunteering information events too.

Other UK wide options you could explore are:

Do-it makes it easy for anyone to volunteer in their community and lists hundreds of opportunities throughout the country.

vInspired is a youth volunteering charity which connects young people with volunteering opportunities.  Use their search tool to find placements to help make a difference.

GoodGym combines physical tasks that benefit the community and keeps you fit at the same time! You can join a group run to work on a community project, do one off missions to help vulnerable people, or commit to visit an isolated older person every week.

Environmentjob  lists conservation and wildlife opportunities throughout the UK and overseas options too.

If you are interested in bird life, the RSPB welcomes volunteers from bird identifiers to graphic designers.

The homelessness charity Crisis helps deliver services, campaigns, fundraising, administrative and IT support and always needs volunteers.

The Red Cross has lots of opportunities too from working in a charity shop to fundraising and it doesn’t matter how much time you can give.

Cancer Research UK recruits event, media and office volunteers.


Volunteering abroad

For a summer volunteering placement, the International Citizen Service programme is worth considering. It’s funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development and runs 12 week volunteering placements in over 20 countries. The programmes are aimed at 18-25 year olds.

VSO provides volunteering placements overseas, mainly in developing countries, but you can support them in the UK too by volunteering at fund-raising and community events.


What are your rights as a volunteer?

As a volunteer, you don’t have the same rights as an employee, and you won’t receive a contract of employment, but you will usually be given a volunteer agreement that explains what training you’ll get, the level of supervision and support you can expect to receive and whether you’re covered under the organisation’s employer or public liability insurance. Health and safety issues should be covered too.

You aren’t paid for your time as a volunteer, but you may get money to cover expenses. This is usually limited to food, drink, travel or any equipment you need to buy.

GOV.UK has a section on volunteering which includes information about your rights as a volunteer.


Come back next week for another #SummerCareerFix 

Support is available from your Careers and Employability Service with career planning, CVs and applications, interview skills, practice interviews and more. Contact with your careers queries.