The value of volunteering

There are many reasons to volunteer, like wanting to help others, keeping up a hobby, making use of spare time, meeting new people etc. Often people forget that volunteering can also be an important step to getting that desired job or place on a postgraduate course.

Volunteering can give you structured opportunities to establish, improve or maximise general workplace skills like time management, communication or more specific skills that an industry demands – see Prospects’ Job Sector information to identify some of these. Volunteering can introduce a range of scenarios that you could use as examples to help answer competency questions for job applications and is a great addition to your CV, showing an employer that you have gained valuable work experience and taken the initiative to get involved in different things outside of your studies.

Work experience through volunteering can be vital to being accepted on a postgraduate course especially if the degree is more vocational or it’s a change in career direction.  For example it is likely that an IT graduate wanting to do an Masters in Social Work would need to build up practical experience of working with vulnerable people. Volunteering can also be an information-gathering exercise to know more about the area you are hoping to study as a postgraduate.

Remember that there are some practicalities to consider before you start volunteering like commitment, location, financial support and application processes. There are many different ways to volunteer – for example, being a member of a society committee, being a course rep or helping out at your local community centre.  Here is a brief list of places to look for volunteering opportunities to start you off:

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Student story: The benefits of volunteering

jessJess Weeks got involved with QProjects earlier this year, as a Collections Project Leader at the Royal Academy of Arts. Jess wanted to gain some experience in the heritage sector and loved the idea of working for an independent charity – so applied for QProjects. Now that she’s finished her placement, we caught up with her to see how she got on…

What did you enjoy about your placement?

“The Royal Academy was a great place to be in general. One of my favourite tasks, however, was working on the opening of the Anthony Green exhibition. I had to transcribe one of his pieces of work and it was so nice knowing that my opinion was valued. On opening night I met the artist himself! The team were so lovely and really made me feel welcome; I was sad to leave, but I felt very lucky to have had the opportunity to do such a wonderful placement.”

Do you think that doing a QProject has helped your employability?

Benefits-of-volunteering1_(002)“Having the QProject on my CV is really going to help me with further applications. I have learned many transferable skills, had to deal with and overcome certain challenges within the role, and have also gained valuable experience within the sector. In interviews I will draw on my experiences at the RA to provide support for statements of character and experience. I have also made valuable connections within the sector. Networking is crucial and QProjects provides a great platform to start this process.”

What would you say to a student who was considering doing a QProject?

“I would wholly recommend it! It’s a fantastic way to meet people and make connections, as well as allowing you to learn crucial skills within a sector. Although it is unpaid, I feel that this looks better on your CV as it shows how dedicated you are and good at time-management! Do it sooner rather than later – don’t (like I did) wait until your third year to start looking for experience. These projects are a great way to start gaining experience and learn what you like and don’t like, so for me this project has allowed me to understand that I might be best suited in a more educational role rather than curatorial.”

Looking for work experience? QProjects Summer applications open now

  • Are you looking to gain some work experience this summer?
  • QProjects Summer places QMUL students in local charities completing challenging projects which are flexible around your other commitments.
  • Looking to build your CV? This is a great way to get some experience while giving back to your community.

Amrin Nahar applied for a QProject in 2016 and was appointed Digital Marketing and Comms Project Leader at St Joseph’s Hospice:

amrin“The reason why I got involved with QProjects was that I saw it to be a fantastic opportunity to enhance my work experience. I was able to apply for the role of Digital Marketing Assistant at St Joseph’s Hospice. My main responsibility was to aid the Head of Marketing and Communications to deliver a new intranet for the hospice. What I really enjoyed was being able to provide insight and suggestions to the team regarding the project. This made me feel incredibly involved in the team as well as allowed me to gain experience in working in an office environment. QProjects has helped me gain interviews for jobs as the skills I have acquired have been valuable and transferable for other roles. I believe that if students are looking to gain first hand work experience and enhance their employability prospects, QProjects is a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of. As many employers want to see that potential candidates have engaged in practical work experience.” 

Since her project, Amrin has carried on volunteering taking on extra responsibilities, as well as securing a permanent role here at QMUL whilst she completes her MA.

Applications for QProject Summer are open now until 1st June to all QMUL students.  For more information about the roles and how to apply, check out our application form here.

Student story: Entering the legal world through the Legal Advice Centre

Daniel Rees Alexander Halford, 2nd year LLB student (left in image below)

halfordWhen I started studying Law at QMUL last year, I had been ‘out of the game’ for quite a while. I spent time abroad after graduating from my previous degree before working a year in Greggs in my sleepy Welsh commuter town.

I needn’t have worried about being older than everyone else on campus – everyone on the Senior Status degree was my age or older. Though I was the oldest in my Pooley flat by a couple of years, the other flatmates were second years from the States and people who for some reason or other hadn’t gotten sucked into university at eighteen.

But shovelling pasties is a little easier than getting through a contract law case. I tried to expand my comfort zone, mooting and making a last-minute application to the Legal Advice Centre. I went to see a panel of barristers talk about their experiences and dropped by the Law fair. On the networking side, I had a strong desire to be talked at, to hear stories, but didn’t really have enough stuff to talk about myself.

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The QHackney project – a unique volunteering experience!

Catherine Bailey, 2nd year LLB student

Over the past 5 months, QProjects has teamed up with Hackney Volunteer Centre to offer Queen Mary students a unique chance to undertake a 3 month placement at a small but growing Hackney-based charity. The organisations were selected due to their need for a student to come and aid the life-changing work they were doing – these leaders are ones of great enthusiasm and ideas, but in many cases just too much on their plate, many with a staff of only 1!

That’s where we stepped in. Selected through a competitive (but not intimidating) interview process, 10 students were then placed with 10 charities to each complete 12 days of voluntary work, though this could be scheduled as suited both across the 3 months. This flexibility meant this type of placement was ideal for many students with deadlines to consider.

I was tasked with documenting the project to evaluate its success, and I can report they were many. Students had the opportunity to receive valuable training in areas such as writing funding applications from Hackney Centre for Voluntary Services – an area which none had previously encountered, but are now able to teach others about! Students said that this type of training, as well as the other work completed on placement, opened their eyes to the charity sector, with some now considering these careers post-graduation.

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International students: What you need to know to work in the UK

Are you an overseas student looking to get some work experience here in the UK?

Follow my 5 tips below to increase your chances of success.

  1. Get an NI number – An NI number is a National Insurance number that identifies you as a UK tax payer. HMRC (HM Revenue & Customs) will then use this number to make sure you are paying the right amount of tax. Without an NI number you could be over taxed and some employers won’t be able to pay you. To get an NI number visit this website: www.gov.uk/apply-national-insurance-number.
  2. Get a UK bank account – Most employers will not be able to pay you without a UK bank account. Go to the bank prepared with your NI number, passport and proof of UK address.
  3. Make your CV UK friendly – CV layout and content tends to vary in each country so make sure yours is ‘UK friendly’. A few simple things you can do right now is to: a) remove the photo of yourself from your CV (unless you are applying for a modelling job of course); b) remove any irrelevant personal details such as your date of birth, nationality or religion; c) get your CV down to one or two pages, as this is generally the acceptable length in the UK. If you would like to get further detailed feedback on your CV, why not book a 1-2-1 appointment at the Careers & Enterprise Centre (Queens’ WG3).
  4. Organise your reference – Make sure you have people employers can contact that can provide references in English (not a relative or friend). This is particularly important if registering with any agencies (like QTemps).
  5. Get volunteering experience – UK employers value any kind of experience that demonstrates vital skills like team work, leadership and problem solving. Volunteering is a great way to start building this experience, particularly since it is flexible and you can arrange it around your studies. If you’re not sure where to begin, check out the Students’ Union Volunteering website (www.qmsu.org/volunteering) and look out for their Volunteering Fair in October.

Rachael Blundell

QTemps Recruitment Manager

To book a 1-2-1 appointment with a Careers Consultant, call 020 7882 8533. For further information and resources for international students, visit QMPlus.

Was your new year resolution to get some work experience? Here’s how:

If you’re a student, the New Year is unlikely to feel as new or fresh or organised as the billboards and Spotify ads would suggest. The hangover of the previous calendar year will persist well into January as you wait on exam results or assignment marks. With all the havoc that January wrecks, it is often easier to live in the present rather than plan ahead.

But unfortunately, with each January, graduation is ever closer. And at some point, you will need to ask yourself what it is you are going to do with the next forty plus years of your life. This conversation can be either panicked, or productive. Thankfully, Queen Mary Careers and Enterprise Centre are available to make the conversation a productive one.
What many students struggle with is the idea of how they will reach their envisioned career goal. Whether it is banking, business development, charity or media you see yourself working in, it can be difficult to know where to begin when your CV is empty aside from your four-month stint at Build a Bear or Wetherspoons. QM Careers run a number of successful schemes aimed at developing your professional profile and preparing you for applications to graduate roles.

If you are determined, but lacking in relevant experience, QM Careers’ QProjects scheme is where you should start. QProjects is an award winning work experience scheme that places QM students on challenging and meaningful projects in local organisations. Past projects have included medical research, corporate partnerships, marketing and finance.
Not only will these projects enable you to grow transferable professional skills and demonstrate them to graduate employers, they will give you confidence and trajectory. Students who have undertaken a QProject have often extended their placements or even secured permanent paid employment at the organisation.
So rather than making New Year’s resolutions that you know won’t last – never will another sugar granule pass my lips, for example – why not resolve to do something that is worthwhile, meaningful and forward looking? Something like a QProject.
To learn more about the QProjects available, please visit http://goo.gl/4apfkM

Read our article ‘Experience Matters’  (QMUL login required) for a list of 10 other ways you can build your work experience.