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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Making the most of summer

blog-picWith exams now over, it’s time to start making plans for the summer. Read on for advice from Careers Consultant Andrea on how to make the most of the next few months …

  • Think carefully before applying for advertised work experience positions so you identify the best opportunities e.g. what’s your main motivator for getting work experience?

– Experience in a particular sector?
– A chance to develop a new skill?
– Getting an ‘in’ with a particular company?
– Money?
– Broadening your network?

  • If you know a specific small company you’d like to work with then think about a problem that they need solving and then think of a piece of work you could do for them which would help solve that problem and add value (e.g. competitor analysis, a specific social media marketing campaign, running an event). Approach them on LinkedIn and ask if you can meet for a coffee for 15 minutes to discuss your idea.

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Student blog: My experience working for a start-up

kamrulKamrul Alom is a 2nd year Politics student, who shares his experience working for both a corporate and start-up below. Kamrul also featured in March’s Student Stories Week.

Most students specifically apply for internships at big names. We tend to apply for the likes of JP Morgan, P&G, Google and others. However, it is easy to forget or neglect the world of start-ups: a very different world to the big corporate employers that many of us will one day join. It is a very different but great alternative.

I currently work for a start-up called Plum Fintech, as an Operations and User Happiness Intern, which marks a great difference to my previous internship at Morgan Stanley. I have also gained work experience in several different organisations, both in the charity sector and private sector, developing vital experience and skills.

plumPlum is a personal savings butlers, and it all happens whilst speaking to Plum on Facebook Messenger. My role involves supporting and ensuring that new users are correctly set up onto Plum, and if not, I am tasked to solve and diagnose the error – i.e taking it up with stakeholders or messaging users. I also make sure that the company links correctly to users’ bank accounts (securely and safely of course) to analyse potential savings, using a very smart algorithm. It automatically makes these savings for you. The application allows you to get on with your life, as Plum makes very intelligent savings for you.

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Careers & Enterprise: Who we are

Whether you need help finding a part-time job, writing a CV or cover letter, or preparing for a graduate scheme, we can help.

Where are we?

queensThe Careers & Enterprise Centre is based in the Queens’ building (pic on left) on the Mile End campus, which is number 19 on this campus map.

We’re in room WG3, on the ground floor, near the Octagon and the Student Enquiry Office . From the main entrance, head down the corridor on the left-hand side and follow the signs.

What can we do for you?

We help QMUL students and recent graduates (up to 2 years after you graduate) with anything careers-related, from writing a CV to exploring your options after graduation. A career might seem a long way off if you’ve only just finished your first year, but whatever stage you’re at on your QMUL journey, come and see us! Even if you’ve never even thought about life after university, we’re here to help you …

Appointments with Careers Consultants

We offer 20 minute 1-2-1 appointments with a Careers Consultant, and these appointments can cover any careers query, including: CV & application feedback, finding and applying for jobs, or deciding what to do after graduation.

Job hunting

Whether you’re looking for part-time work or a full-time role after graduation, take a look at our jobs board, Job Online: www.careers.qmul.ac.uk/jobs. This is updated regularly and

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Student story: The benefits of volunteering

Thinking about getting some work experience this summer? QProjects Summer has 12 positions in charities open for application now.

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.”

If you fancy doing something similar, further details on how to apply for QProjects summer can be found here. The programme is open to all students and the deadline is 1st June.

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.

Summer is around the corner …

The clocks might have only recently changed, but it’s not too early (or late) to think about getting experience in the summer.

Getting experience really makes a difference.  It looks great on your CV, and is highly regarded by employers.  The skills you develop will make you stand out from other candidates when applying to roles in the future.  Experiencing different jobs and organisations can also help you make decisions about your next steps. In fact work experience is often the best way to find out whether a particular option is right for you. You could discover interesting job roles you had never heard of, or perhaps find that what you thought might be your dream job isn’t really for you at all. The people you work with could also be useful for networking in the future.

Essential for employers: Employers want to see evidence of experience and transferable skills on your CV, as if you can prove you have used your skills effectively in a work related context in the past, it is a strong indication that you can use those skills again in the role you are applying to. In other words, it convinces the employer that you have the ability to do their job. Previous experience demonstrates initiative, drive and the motivation to get involved with activities outside of your degree – all characteristics valued by employers.

Choose wisely to meet your needs: If you don’t have much evidence of a specific skill on your CV, such as leadership or project management, find an opportunity where you can enhance and develop that skill e.g. organising a fundraising event for a charity. Whatever your degree and interests, there will be relevant experiences available.

Be open minded to avoid missing out on opportunities: Experience doesn’t necessarily have to be in the role or industry you are interested in.  Any work experience in sales, for example, will be a useful way to build your negotiation and client focus skills, which are useful in many non-sales roles. Think beyond just formal work experience schemes. It can be gained from part-time work, volunteering, extra-curricular activities, work-shadowing, or even starting your own business. 

Apply with care: Don’t assume that applications for part time or voluntary work don’t require time and effort. Always tailor your applications, as you still need to convince the employer that you have the relevant skills and are genuinely interested in the organisation. Remember, your application may be the first impression they have of you, so make it positive and professional.

If you are not sure where to apply see the Knowledge Bank for information on job hunting and our industry guides. Book an appointment with a Careers Consultant for further tips and to get feedback on your CV when you apply.