Boosting your employability through volunteering? A “taking and giving” but…

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I admit that probably the term “volunteering” is not the most “sexy” one and does not attract so much glamour like many other trendy phenomena.

Actually volunteering is not that trendy at all and here we have a problem and much more resources should be spent on promoting and celebrating the achievements of volunteering action.

Still volunteering can offer you a great platform to bounce back to life. It is true that volunteering is always about “giving” back, doing something good and useful ( at least trying to do, without damage, please!)  but undoubtedly the other hidden dimension, the “taking” is paramount.

Actually for those who volunteer this dimension, the aspect of serving and helping others, is the most transformational one as it enriches you as person. Call it egoistic but it is true.

Volunteering gives gratification and satisfaction. In short it is all about personal happiness or at least it works like this for me.

That’s why volunteering is a win-win not only for those at the receiving end but especially for those giving time, the volunteers. By volunteering you learn new things, you have a better understanding of the society and community where you live and importantly you can get a pathway towards employability.

Though, employability should not be a goal itself when you decide to serve. If that would be the case, then you could go for an internship: the difference is not much in what you do but in the motivation and reason why you decided to volunteer or to intern. The latter is more focused on you and your personal development while the former is focused on others.

Still undoubtedly volunteering can be an incredible way to shape up and get back to full life. What I mean by getting back to full life is all about having a job. Earning an income from a job is an undeniable right, it something that gives satisfaction and also a sense of life. If you are lucky, you can even love your job. Not many people are so fortunate but like it or dislike it, at least earning something honestly gives you dignity and respect.


By volunteering you also get dignity and respect but I am strongly convinced that volunteering should not be an end in itself but a transformative tool to do good while at the same time becoming a better and more skilled person.

Even through few hours in a week, you can learn quite a lot by volunteering. Both in the north and south of the world there is ample evidence of the correlations between volunteering and finding an employment.

Last January in London I went to visit the Volunteer Center Greenwich ( ) that is running an amazing volunteering program with a track record in helping those “hard to reach” finding a job. There is no better motto to define the mission of the Center than “Transforming  lives through volunteering” and indeed Volunteer Center Greenwich is playing a key role in revitalizing the local community, offering chances for local people, including recently arrived immigrants, to find a role in the society.

Take for example the “Enhanced Volunteering Project” where volunteers are required to be at the Volunteer Center Greenwich two days a week and have a real chance of getting involved in the administration and management of the different programs and services run by the Center. In exchange of their time and their contributions, all volunteers undertake an intensive training package that includes a fully accredited course in customer service knowledge and IT trainings. The program lasts for six months and as part of the experience, each participant receives also counseling and active support to find employment.

In the two batches so far organized involving thirty two persons, twenty nine went into work and the remaining continued volunteering and some went for further trainings. The results are remarkable and it is much value for money, a real proof that volunteering for work makes sense and has an impact.

Now shifting to the south of the world, several southern African countries, including the leading country in the region, South Africa, are running government led youth service programs that are focused on mobilizing youth for community work offering, at the same time training and skills enhancement opportunities to boost their chances towards employability.

VOSESA, a leading research and action tank focused on volunteering in southern African region, recently organized an international conference on the links between volunteering and employability. Experts from all the region proved how volunteering can be strategically used in order to fight poverty through employment creation, especially among youth.

I am personally all for this kind of service but with a caveat: volunteering for employability makes absolute sense if we do not forget about or neglect the multidimensional scope of service, the “giving and taking” thing.

Through volunteering for employability schemes you can “capsize” the  terms and having instead a “taking and giving” approach. Nothing wrong with this but…

All the program boosting employability and skills through volunteering, especially young out of work should always ensure that all participants fully understand the “terms and conditions” of volunteering, what is it, how it works and differences of what they are doing from more traditional training or apprenticeship programs.

The difference is all about understanding that while gaining new skills which can land you a job, you should not forget the ultimate goal of volunteering. As they say in Greenwich, it is all about transforming lives…

Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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