Have you ever thought about volunteering? Maybe once for about ten seconds before remembering that you have enough on your plate without making commitments to noble causes? But the benefits of volunteering aren’t always just about the greater good. Volunteering can get you out of your comfort zone and boost your confidence and at the same time kick-start a new career.
Jo from North London gave up work after her second child was born but when her youngest began school she decided it was time to start earning again. She applied for teaching assistant jobs but she was unsuccessful because she had no prior experience so she contacted a local special school about volunteering. Initially she was only able to commit to a few hours per week but enjoyed the placement so much that she began to work full days. After volunteering for a month the school encouraged her to join their Teaching Assistant supply agency. Jo had a successful interview and was soon being offered regular TA cover work. This suited her perfectly as it meant work could fit around her family life. Through volunteering Jo discovered that she wanted to develop a deeper understanding of special needs and she has just been accepted onto a part time psychology degree course.
Jo says “Volunteering in a special school gave me the opportunity to totally change the direction of my life. I thought that a Teaching Assistant job would be a cushy number with all the time off for school holidays, but the work is more interesting and rewarding than I could’ve imagined and it has given me a great insight into young people with disabilities. It is an amazing privilege to work with kids who are always so positive and upbeat regardless of the daily challenges they face.”
Georgina is from Lincolnshire and found herself at a loose end once her two children went to school, “When both of my children reached school age I found myself going into the classes and helping out with reading and became more involved in school life. Eventually I felt I had amassed enough experience to apply for a job as a teaching assistant. The job has been a perfect avenue back into work. It has enabled me to be there for my kids before and after school and through all of their holidays. It has given me focus and confidence, and with five years solid experience in school I am now looking at taking the PGCE into teaching. Fifteen years ago the thought of working with children all day would have sounded like a form of torture. It took having a couple of my own to realise that kids can be amazing, hilarious, inspiring and frustrating – but never dull!”
Volunteering can be the ideal way to boost your confidence if you have been out of work for a while and can give you a chance to ease back into work if you are worried about how you will juggle a job with a hectic family life. Volunteering also looks great on a CV. If you are applying for unrelated jobs you can take key aspects of the work to highlight your own skills e.g. improved communication skills. You will meet lots of new people, not just your usual mummy-crowd, and invariably have a good laugh which is proven to banish baby-brain and boost your immunity!
By Annie Dobbin, School Business Manager, Oak Lodge School & mum to Olly. Oak Lodge School is an outstanding special needs school in East Finchley for secondary aged students with a range of learning difficulties. The school offers volunteer placements for anyone wishing to gain experience and make a regular commitment for at least a couple of hours a week.