How to boost your skills with volunteering

Volunteering or taking part in social action is a great way to make a positive difference to your local community – and build your skills at the same time. It helps you become more confident, develop important skills (like team working), and value and respect difference in others – all things we look for in future employees at HPC.

Here are four reasons why you should give volunteering a go – and tips on how to get the most out of the experience.

Reason #1: Develop job-ready skills

Employers want to hire people who can think on their feet and have good skills, such as communication and problem solving. If you can work well with others and adapt to new situations quickly, you’ll stand out when you apply for a job.

Volunteering is a great way to build these skills and work as a team. You gain transferable skills to use in a future job – and you help people at the same time. There may be more opportunities than you think too. You can teach others something you’re good at, like sport. Or raise money for a charity doing something you enjoy.

In many cases, volunteering demonstrates emotional awareness. Perhaps you run a disco for a local youth club or referee at a local kids’ football club – you do it because you know the people you help gain confidence or feel happier. Sometimes it’s the ‘why’ and not the ‘what’ you do it for that makes you stand out.

There are lots of organisations that can find you volunteer shifts with charities or other groups that need help – see the Useful links section, below. But you can volunteer informally too. It could be helping to clear a neighbour’s garden. Or supporting younger students with their studies. You’re still learning skills, such as time management, and building your confidence in interacting with others.

Volunteering during Covid-19

Did you shop for a neighbour in need during Covid-19? Or help to sew masks? There were lots of volunteer opportunities during Covid-19. So however big or small your contribution during lockdown, mention it in conversations with employers. Covid-19 was challenging for everyone, and taking the initiative to volunteer demonstrates your resilience and adaptability in handling the situation.

Reason #2: Kick-start your career

Do you have a career goal in mind? Volunteering can help you narrow down what you enjoy, and work out what you’re good at. Perhaps you prefer early starts and being outside. Or find it rewarding when someone grasps a concept you’ve taught them. Maybe you enjoy hands-on work. Or get a buzz from creative tasks.

Volunteering helps you learn more about yourself through how you interact with new people. Going further afield – and volunteering abroad or in another culture – will help you see how others live and broaden your horizons.

Even if you don’t travel, growing your network of contacts through volunteering gives you an insight into what people do in their daily jobs. It could even lead to paid work. Volunteering helps you build connections that could turn into future work opportunities. Stay in touch with people after the volunteering via professional platforms, like LinkedIn.

Can my hobby count as volunteering?

If you’re helping others, then absolutely! So your tennis hobby could be turned into skills coaching for younger children. Or if you enjoy growing vegetables, you could help with a charity’s allotment. Enjoying what you do makes it all the more worthwhile. 

Reason #3: Stand out from the crowd

When you don’t have a job or experience – perhaps because you’re still at school or college – volunteering helps your CV stand out from others. If you can show you’ve taken the initiative and supported a cause, that says a lot more about you than your academic qualifications.

Volunteering also gives you real-life ‘evidence’ you can share with employers of how you’ve put your skills into action. Everyone can say they’re a good team player, for example… But if you organised a local gig for charity, you can show how you worked with others to make it happen. It gives you an experience to talk about with employers. And it gives employers a chance to see how you put your skills to use to help others. For more tips on putting your CV together, take a look at our CVs guide.

Reason #4: Doing good feels good!

Study after study has found that volunteering has a positive effect on your mental health and wellbeing. An evaluation of the National Citizen Service, for example, found that it reduced anxiety and increased levels of satisfaction with life amongst the young people who took part. While a study in the US found that over the longer term, young people who volunteer are less likely to suffer from depression .

And it’s not hard to see why volunteering is so good for us. It’s a chance to get out, meet new people and make new friends. But it can also give you a warm glow inside to give something back to the community and make a difference to the lives of others.

Three questions about volunteering

1. Is volunteering just about running errands?

Not at all. Lots of organisations match volunteers to older people’s needs or those with disabilities. But you can also turn your passion into a good deed:

  • Perhaps you’re a talented graffiti artist and can brighten up a youth club
  • Perhaps you can speak another language or can teach others about your birth culture
  • Perhaps you love baking and can help a preschool with a cooking session


2. What volunteering can I do from home?

Covid-19 demonstrated that it was still possible to volunteer – even when normal life was turned upside down. All types of volunteers were required: from delivering food and medicine. To talking to those who were lonely or in need over the phone.

If you need to volunteer from home, you could tell stories over video to children in hospital. Write a newsletter for a charity or community group… Perhaps even look after an animal for a shelter!

Being at home also doesn’t stop you looking for opportunities in the future – particularly if you’re interested in volunteering overseas, which requires more planning.

3. Do you get paid for volunteering?

No. The definition of a volunteer is that you don’t get paid. But when you apply for a job, having experience of volunteering on your CV will show employers that you have the determination to improve your skills and can work well with others. Occasionally, a volunteer role can lead to a full-time job, too.

Where do you start?

It helps to ask yourself a few questions before looking for opportunities:

  • What are your interests?
  • What skills can you offer?
  • How much time do you have to give, and when?

What if I don’t like it?

Just like a ‘normal’ job, volunteering might not work out. Perhaps you thought you’d be helping people on the ‘frontline’, but you’re stuffing envelopes in an office and it’s boring. Or the organisation isn’t sure what they want you to do, so you sit around doing nothing.

If this is the case, observe what others do, and see if there’s a gap where your skills could help. Ask to talk the person in charge and see if you can work it out. And, of course, if you’re really unhappy, let your supervisor know and find another volunteering opportunity. The good thing about volunteering is that there really is something to suit everyone’s interests.

Useful links

There are a number of organisations that can help you find a volunteering role:


Youth United aims to increase the number of young people engaged in their communities. Their network consists of: