Benefit from Volunteering Whilst Job Seeking

If you are looking for work you could also have a lot of free time on your hands in amongst the job interviews and applications. Some of this time could be used to great benefit by volunteering in some capacity. Volunteering is where you work for an organisation and do not get paid, or only get paid for expenses.

Types of Voluntary Work

Voluntary work happens not only all over the country but all across the world as well. Most charities depend upon the work of volunteers to survive and people help them out in many capacities. Some charities have shops both in the high street and online which are entirely dependent upon volunteers to stay open. In these shops you might be interacting with customers, designing shop windows, sorting out stock or answering the telephone and doing administration duties. Online you may be helping out with website content or chatting to people that need assistance. Other charities need help in offices, on helplines, with fundraising, or with working in the community.

All charities are looking for volunteers and there are all sorts of websites online that can show you the volunteering opportunities in your area. If you are looking for voluntary work in England you should have a look at this website: www.do-it.org.uk, if you are looking in Scotland you can find advice on www.volunteerscotland.org.uk and if you wish to volunteer in Wales you need: www.volunteering-wales.net.

How voluntary work can help you

As well as benefitting the local community or the charity in question, volunteering can also help your own chances of getting a job. Whilst you are volunteering you get experience in lots of different ways and being a volunteer also shows potential employers that you are not afraid to work.

When looking for work one of the most important tools you have is your CV. This is your life journal and shows future employers all your education history, your employment history, your life experiences and what kind of a person you are.
If as well as regular jobs and training you can fill in on your CV that you have volunteered to work somewhere, this gives people a really good impression of you. It shows that you are keen to contribute something back to society, that you are willing to work even when you do not get paid to and that you have gained valuable experience. If you are still volunteering whilst you are looking for work, this also shows future employers that even when unemployed you are not just sitting back, but are doing something productive.

On a more personal level, volunteering is a great way to get training for potential jobs. If you have no experience in sales, but you think you may like a job in this line of work, or this seems to be the only type of work available, working as a volunteer in a charity shop will give you the training about how to talk to customers, how to manage a cash register and how to process stock. If you are looking for office work, the same applies if you volunteer in a charities office or somewhere similar. Whilst you are volunteering at this job you get to talk to people as well and you never know if one of them runs a store and is looking to employ someone just like you!

Have a look at all the voluntary opportunities and see if there is anything that not only interests you as a hobby, but also could be an area that you could build a future career in. This situation is ideal as you will get training, meet people in the line of work as well as using some of your spare time productively. You do not need to volunteer full time, in fact this would hinder your job seeking experience, but a few hours or a couple of days a week would leave you time to still look for work and fulfil your Jobseeker’s Allowance requirements.

Receiving benefits whilst volunteering

Remember that you cannot be paid for this work, other than your expenses such as travel and child care, or you will be deemed to be working and lose your eligibility for at least some of the benefits you are on. Getting paid for work, even if it is voluntary whilst claiming certain benefits is known as benefit fraud and it is illegal with very strong penalties. You are allowed to receive some money whilst you are volunteering however, but only for expenses such as travelling to and from the voluntary employment or for uniforms or work clothes whilst you are volunteering.

Whilst you are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance you have certain obligations and these must be fulfilled even if you are volunteering or you will no longer be eligible for the allowance. You are allowed to volunteer in this situation and there are no rules about how much you time you can volunteer for as long as you keep to your job seeking obligations. You have to be able to prove that you are still looking for work, that you are applying for jobs and attending interviews. You also need to keep to your weekly appointment at the JobCentre Plus, but this can be rescheduled to fit in with the times that you are volunteering. The Jobcentre Plus is aware of how volunteering can improve your chances of getting full time paid employment so they will do their best to accommodate you, as long as you keep them up to date with what you are doing and carry on looking for work.

If you are claiming other benefits, such as Tax Credits and Carer’s Allowance you need to check with them what the rules are about volunteering. For example you have to be available to care for the person you look after for 35 hours a week in order to still qualify for Carer’s Allowance.

The Work Together scheme

Jobcentre Plus offer a scheme called Work Together in which they work with particular companies to provide voluntary placements in order to improve experience and training. These organisations may not be charitable ones but actual vacancies that need filling. They also may be a company that is just happy to have volunteers to help out, gain experience and fulfil roles that they cannot do for themselves. Becoming part of this scheme will give you access to lots of voluntary jobs in the local community, and your advisor can give you lots of help and advice.