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Volunteer For Your Career

Who doesn’t love a random act of kindness? One frosty night last Winter I was walking past Fitzgerald’s Park on the way to the Mardyke and I came across a lady who’d been locked into the park (it’s a common enough occurrence, it has happened to me twice before.) I had ABBA blasting through my earphones and I nearly didn’t stop. I felt shy and kind of embarrassed: what if she meant to be in the park after hours? Maybe she’ll think that I’m being nosy if I approach her and ask if she needs help? Maybe it’ll insult her? Nope. She was definitely, well and truly stuck. We brainstormed together and quickly devised a plan wherein she’d hop the fence, using my shoulder to descent. Once freed, she told me she was glad that I stopped and now, nearly a year later, I’m still riding on the high of that random act of kindness, nudging my friends every time we pass the park to remind them of my heroics. Bottom line is: doing things for others makes you feel good and volunteering is one of the best ways to incorporate random acts of kindness into every week. I’ve done my fair share of volunteering: going on walks with the cub scouts, planting trees at the Manch project and playing card games with the residents of my local nursing home and nothing beats those warm fuzzies you get from getting involved in worthy causes.

Not only does volunteering feel great and do great things, it’s also great for your career. More and more, employers are looking out for volunteering on candidates’ CVs. Volunteering shows employers that you’re passionate, you spend your time proactively and that you have developed the essential skills that they need. Volunteering is also a low-stakes way to explore potential career paths and network with interesting people. Oftentimes, volunteering can even turn into a paid position. There are countless ways to volunteer and thousands of organisations across Ireland who are actively seeking new volunteers. It can get overwhelming trying to decide where you might want to devote your time. You can browse volunteering opportunities on StudentVolunteer.ie or Volunteer Ireland to find what organisation may best suit you and vice versa. You can even be rewarded for your volunteering work through the Volunteering Pathway of the UCC Works Award!

The UCC Works Award is a professional skills development programme which demonstrates that you have engaged in and developed professional skills through extra-curricular activities and work experience. After engaging in the experience, UCC Works Award candidates are asked to reflect on the skills they developed and how best to articulate these skills to employers. The candidate will then prepare a Reflective Report and update their CV before receiving the award at the formal UCC Works Award rewards ceremony. You can be rewarded for your volunteer work through the Volunteering and Community Engagement Pathway of the UCC Works Award by completing a minimum of forty hours of unpaid work in an on or off campus organisation.

I chatted with a friend of mine who received the UCC Works Award after volunteering with the UCC PLUS+ Homework Club. The Homework Club is an outreach programme whereby UCC students volunteer at various secondary schools around Cork City to help junior cycle students with their homework. The Homework Club initiative hopes that not only will these students benefit from the additional academic support, but perhaps the experience may encourage them to progress to third level education where they may not have considered it before. My friend greatly enjoyed her time working with the students, saying “ My time with the UCC PLUS+ Homework Club has been enriching and transformative” she also cited the CV-enhancing aspect of the experience and the career benefits she drew from it “As a volunteer, I improved upon many transferable skills. I was able to improve my organisational skills, effective communication and interpersonal skills.”

Having the UCC Works Award on your CV, as well as the digital badge indicates to employers that you have developed the competencies that they need for their business and that you embrace responsibility. Generally, it is graduates with lots of extra-curricular experience on their CVs who get shortlisted for roles. As well as this, the Award opens up tons of great opportunities for networking and strengthening your communication skills. Make sure you stay connected with those you meet along your volunteering/UCC Works journey and keep them updated on your job search. And don’t forget to have fun; the volunteering experience is as much for you as it is for the organisation you’re working with. What an amazing opportunity to try your hand at something you’re interested in in a low-pressure environment. Your future you will thank you!

Applications for the UCC Works Award 2020-21 are now open!