As a Criminology third year student, like most York students, it has come to that time of my university journey, where I have been looking online for potential jobs for when I finish my degree in July. My university experience has been great; however, throughout my time here supervisors and lecturers have been stressing the importance of volunteering and relevant work experience.
I wish I had listened to this advice from day one, as now I am struggling to get interviews in my field of Criminal Justice. I have been applying for jobs within the sector as a Youth Support Worker, Youth Offending Team, and also in the Fraud department. However, my lack of relevant work experience is what seems to be letting me down at this stage.
If I would have known the extent that this would have on my career options I would have definitely started volunteering sooner than now. I mean I have volunteered throughout my university time, but no experience which is relevant to working with vulnerable people. I have worked on my college JCRC- Junior Common Room Committee, and have also volunteered as a student ambassador (showing students around the university), but as I pointed out, no volunteering with RELEVANT work experience.
I have now put myself forward for two volunteering opportunities in York, both run by charities. One which involves mentoring victims of domestic violence and the second consists of befriending young vulnerable people. If I had understood the extent that applying for a job revolved around this experience I would have easily begun sooner than the third year of my degree.
I guess the point of this section of my blog, is to stress the idea of volunteering for any sector where you may be interested in employment in the future. It would have been more beneficial for me to begin in my first year, as I found I would have had more time to commit to volunteering, but mainly as most charities of this nature require a minimum of one year’s commitment. This is because of the nature of the job, building close relationships with people, and also due to the extent of the training that will be given to you to help you undertake your role.
Where to look for volunteering opportunities?
To begin with a great starting point to look for volunteering opportunities is on the York Careers homepage. Careers offer a range of services but also highlight some great schemes. These range over disciplines and interests and are a great place to begin your search. I also found it helpful to ask friends and locals in the area if they know of any relevant charities or organisations that may have opportunities for volunteers.
When you find a charity or sector you are interested in, I would highly suggest researching on their speciality as some may be out of a student’s range of skills, qualifications or they could require a great deal of time commitment per week. As a student you don’t have numerous spare hours alongside your studies so it is great to find something that will fit around your timetable, and the hours you have to offer.
When you are applying for these roles it is important to think about the relevant skills and qualities you have to offer for the opportunities. It is also a great chance to state why you are wishing to volunteer with this prospective sector, and what you wish you gain from it. This is a fantastic opportunity as if they are looking for specific volunteers; it allows the charity/ sector to fit your requirement with theirs in order to benefit both parties.
Everyone should volunteer!
Finally, I believe volunteering is a great opportunity to get involved in alongside your studies. It allows for a sense of self-satisfaction, the feelings of helping, supporting and giving guidance to those who may need it, instils new skills, sheds light on a specific area of work (Criminal Justice), but it also allows for you to make new friends and also have fun whilst along the way.
If you only have a few hours one morning to do so, it is of great help to everyone if volunteers can give up their time to do something positive for the local community. It helps build community cohesion and is great for your CV. This is something you should be building upon all the time, to enhance your overall employability after your degree!