From unemployment to volunteering to employment…

Photo of Andrew Wilding-Smith
Monday 1st August 2011

During those dark dreary, post-University days that move so slowly through the Autumn and Winter that I, like so many others thought to myself, “Where have all my friends gone?”, “What am I doing?” and “Was all that money really worth it?” I was bored and unemployed. I left University and searched for a job for months and was ultimately left demoralised and unsuccessful. The abstract thoughts of working were too much for a brain and body that was rarely up before 10am. I needed to do something.

So, as I am now so accustomed to, I searched Do-it, YouthNet’s volunteering website, for volunteering opportunities in my local area, and thus a new journey began. I got in touch with the local Youth Action Team and swiftly joined; motivated by communication, drive and possibilities, it was exciting. Here I spent time working in a team of other young people, putting together events, fundraising, sharing ideas and occasionally going to the pub. What a life!

A fellow Youth Action Team member was living away from home and volunteering full time with CSV, this sounded intriguing. I wanted to move out, but couldn’t get a job; yeah a full fridge is brilliant but a life away from home is better. I knew that volunteering full time for a year would give me the skills and experience to move forward and hopefully never lie on the sofa, slouched like a dying bear at 2:20 in the afternoon watching Come Dine With Me…again.

So it was that I too applied for the CSV role, a role which could send me anywhere in the UK, possibly supporting people with disabilities or working in a school, it could have been anything, but at least it was something. Find out more about residential opportunities here.

Thankfully I was accepted, and asked to come to work in CSV’s London offices. I was given the scope for an intergenerational project called Young at Heart that links 16-25 year olds with older members of the community. I couldn’t believe my luck. I’d never worked in an office before and had been given this fantastic project that would build community links around Camden and Islington and got to live in London for the first time as well!

Through volunteering full time I learned so many basic skills that I simply hadn’t at University. Whilst it was a vital experience, managing your time at University isn’t a priority – if anything, I had too much time to know what to do with – now I had to plan, organise and manage. I arranged events, gave presentations about volunteering to young people, developed skills and was on interview panels. I even started writing a blog for Do-it about my experiences.

It felt like I was finally getting somewhere! I was gaining confidence, I understood what a charity did and how important the work of its employees is to achieving that aim. I worked with brilliant young people who could talk and engage with older people whether we were designing World Cup mascots or  creating film posters.

These experiences carried on throughout my one year placement and by the time I left I was sure that I wanted to work for a charity. Now, that might not be the same for everybody, but the surenessof conviction that I found, the pleasure that I got from working in that environment and the skills I learned and the people I met were invaluable, and would be invaluable to any young people struggling to find a job at the moment.

By creating strong links through my volunteering, and also having the back up that a degree reflects I have now been springboarded into a job with YouthNet working on, where I first looked for opportunities, and where I posted opportunities for my volunteering project. It feels like I should perhaps break into a rendition of the ‘Circle of Life’.

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  1. Photo of Susan Mthimkulu says:

    Dear Andrew
    I have read your story, guess what, it desrcirbes me at thr moment. I have been looking for work for the past twelve months after being made redundant last March 2011. I worked with offenders and I am thinking of voluneering in that section help offenders during their release period especially those who have been in prison for a long time they need some assistance to get started again. I woulld like see your work and maybe get started as paprtnership.

  2. Photo of E MartinezM says:

    Hey, I’m from Uruguay, and for several years I’ve been doing volunteer work, and found your story rather intriguing. I’m interesting in learning more about the organization in which you work for If it is possible. Thanks, Elisa

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