How volunteering saved me

My journey of how I went from being redundant to volunteering to getting a great job!

I worked as a Senior Business Analyst in the financial sector for many years and at the end of February 2020 I was made redundant. It was after this that the pandemic really hit the UK and we went into the first of several lockdowns. I was lucky as my friends had regular video calls so I didn’t feel totally alone, but I still felt quite isolated and stressed. I was fixating on the risks and deaths due to the pandemic and became a hermit, afraid to go out.

It was in January 2021 that I saw a Facebook post from the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham council, asking for volunteers to help with a new vaccination centre. I applied, driven by my need to help protect my community and do my bit to help shorten the pandemic. 

I was successful and started volunteering a month later. As someone who sat in front of a computer screen in my previous role, being on my feet constantly for six hours a day was a challenge but what great exercise! Also, as I live alone, speaking to another person face to face or rather mask to mask was great. I didn’t realise just how much I had missed it and I started to feel more like my old self

There was also a great feeling of camaraderie and it felt good being a part of a team. I made some fab friends who I still see and it felt good to feel that I made a difference in my own small way. 

An unexpected benefit was that it opened-up other volunteering opportunities. Through becoming part of the council volunteers, the council team started sending me emails of other volunteering vacancies. One that took my attention was for ‘Digital Champions”, helping people who had little or no knowledge of IT. Through an opportunity introduced to me by a  volunteering colleague who worked as a Manager of Valence Library, I used my Digital Champion knowledge and joined the Library’s Volunteer Team, helping others gain knowledge and confidence using computers. The library team really made me feel like I was part of their team and involved me in other activities such as helping children build an Easter Tree and running an easter bonnet making session for the children.

I got the volunteering bug! As theatres opened back up post pandemic, I volunteered at The Broadway Theatre in Barking. All three volunteering jobs helped hone the working skills and confidence that I had lost through being made redundant and the pandemic. It gave me confidence to start looking for a job and helped my focus on the type of job I wanted.

My volunteering timeline:

  • 6 February 2021 began work at the vaccination centre in Barking
  • 20 June 2021 became a volunteer Digital Champion
  • 15 July 2021 started volunteering at Valence Library
  • 20 September 2021 became a volunteer at the Broadway Theatre Barking
  • 26 September 2022 started as a Project Support Officer at Care City

Part of volunteering for the council is that they want you to succeed. They offer help with CV writing etc. and keep you informed of paying jobs that come up. One of the jobs was for a Project Support Officer at Care City, a non profit company who delivers health and social care transformation to help the community of East London. My volunteering experience gave me the confidence to apply for the job and I got it! I’m now doing a job that I love and am still helping my community.

Now with Care City, I’m working on a project that uses Career Ambassadors, people who work within health and social care, who volunteer their time to talk to students and job seekers, helping inspire them to consider progressing a job in the sector. I love that I contribute in a small way to expanding the students’ view of health and social care and their careers. I’ve also learnt a lot about how many roles there are and always feel amazed that these people who do such demanding jobs still have such passion for what they do.

So why should you volunteer? 

  1. It helps you gain confidence and provides experience of being in a work environment 
  2. It doesn’t matter how much time you have to give you will always be helping someone
  3. Giving back to your community is a great feeling and it’s infectious!

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