Adding volunteering experience to your CV is invaluable and incredibly appealing to employers. If you don’t have any experience volunteering, then these resources will help you to learn why it is valuable and where/how you can find opportunities. Competition is often high for graduate jobs/schemes, so having volunteering on your CV will certainly help you to stand out. Using your own initiative to source an unpaid opportunity demonstrates that you are proactive, passionate about a cause and able to work as part of a team. So, get started by using these pages to volunteer your way to your perfect graduate job.


What are the benefits of volunteering?

Never underestimate the value of volunteering, there are benefits to everyone and the benefits are instrumental to securing a graduate job.

  • Volunteering enables you to develop and gain some of the practical skills that many employers will deem essential such as communication, organisation and teamwork.
  • It can mean you get to do some of the things you love for free whilst meeting new people. For example you can volunteer at many of the world famous festivals – Glastonbury etc. – through charities such as Oxfam.
  • You will meet new people – increasing your social impact and connections building up your networks to increase future possibilities!
  • Help to gain an insight into future careers and find out what you do and don’t want to do!
  • Extremely rewarding knowing that you are helping those in need.
  • Great way to make use of your spare time.
  • Improve your employability.
  • A way to gain qualifications and training for free!
  • Volunteering is fun!
  • Check out prospects and targetjobs volunteering pages for more amazing ideas.
  • Volunteer to gain work experience in your chosen sector.
  • Volunteer your way to a graduate job.
  • Studies have shown that volunteering can actually increase overall wellbeing, levels of life satisfaction, feeling connected, and feeling less isolated.

Volunteering to gain work experience

As well as all of the wonderful skills you will use and develop, volunteering is a fantastic way to gain work experience in your chosen field. For example, if you are hoping to become a teacher it would be valuable to gain experience in a classroom setting. You could contact your local school, youth group or nursery to arrange some work experience. Not only will this help when applying for employment but it will help to understand the role you would be in and what the day to day responsibilities would look like first hand. This is the case across the board. If you have an idea in mind of what you want to do as a future career, there is no better time than now to arrange the work experience and gain a valuable insight into the field (see also below speculative applications).

<p>Women serving food at soup kitchen<br></p>
<p>Devon Junior and Minor Football League - student volunteering networking event</p>

What skills will you develop by volunteering?

Employers look for and value certain skills when recruiting. This is why volunteering experience is essential to build upon your skill set to ultimately make you more employable. There are many skills you will learn and develop whilst volunteering therefore this list is not exhaustive. But some of the important skills include:

  • Prioritisation
  • Organisation
  • Team work/team building/collaboration
  • Self-motivation
  • Initiative
  • Time management.

Volunteer abroad

Help improve your intercultural interactions and volunteer abroad!

Many students take some time off after University which can be known as a gap year. This is a great way to gain some skills and prepare for further study and for the world of work.

  • Go abroad provides volunteering opportunities all over the globe!
  • Habitat for humanity help to build a home in one of the world’s poorest communities.
  • Oxfam international is a global movement of people, working together to end the injustice of poverty.

How you can volunteer

  • See what opportunities are available through your student union.
  • Join one of your universities societies. Remember you can join at any time of the year. Employers love students who are members of clubs as it shows a lot of initiative and transferable skills.
  • Opportunities through your University.
  • At your local food bank.
  • At your local charity shop.
  • At your local homeless shelter.
  • Looking after animals at your local shelter.
  • Helping the elderly at your local retirement home.
  • With children/young adults at a school/nursery or youth centre.
  • For your local council.
  • Clean your community – help with a local beach clean or litter pick up event.
  • Organise a fundraising event.
  • See what opportunities are available through your student union.
  • Volunteer at a festival. The festival will pay the charity for your time. This way you are able to have fun but at the same time - contributing to a great cause. Here are some of the many charities you can do this for:
  • Mycause
  • Oxfam
  • Crisis

Where to look for volunteering

National databases to search for volunteering opportunities
Responding to crisis charities

  • St John Ambulance help to raise awareness of first aid and directly educate the public.
  • The Salvation Army is a Christian Church and charity.
  • British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are.
  • Oxfam Great Britain is part of a global movement of millions of people working together to end poverty.
  • Crisis is the national charity for homeless people.
  • Foodcycle support people who are hungry and lonely by serving tasty lunches and dinners every single day in towns and cities across the country.
  • Time Bank recruit and train volunteers to deliver mentoring projects to tackle complex social issues.

Healthcare charities

  • NHS volunteering is a great way to get involved in the community.
  • Diabetes UK is the leading charity for people living with diabetes in the UK. Our vision is a world where diabetes can do no harm.
  • Mencap is a UK charity for people with a learning disability.
  • Sense help people with complex disabilities, and who are deafblind, to take part in life.

Mental health charities

  • Shout 85258 is the UK's first free, confidential, 24/7 text support service. It's a place to go if you're struggling to cope and need mental health support.
  • Thecalmzone the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is leading a movement against suicide.
  • Mind the mental health charity. There to make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone.
  • Togetherall is a 24/7, safe online community for people who are stressed, anxious or feeling low, with self-guided courses and resources.

Charities to help older people

  • Age UK is dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life.
  • Reengage is committed to older people being heard, valued and engaged.
  • Independent age provide free information and advice for older people and their families on care and support, money and benefits and health and mobility, along with friendship services to relieve loneliness.
  • The silver line is a helpline for older people.

Charities to support children and young people

  • Step together helps people who are excluded from society to participate in volunteering and build a more positive future.
  • Go Beyond gives children and young people facing serious challenges breaks that last a lifetime.
  • Rainbow Trust provides emotional and practical support to families who have a child with life-threatening or terminal illness.
  • The Children’s Society provide specialist support that empowers young people to make positive changes and rediscover their hope.
  • Barnardo’s is a children's charity that protects and supports the UK's most vulnerable children and young people.
  • Action for Children aim is to give children and young people the practical and emotional support they need to help them succeed.
  • NSPCC (childline) Make a difference to children’s lives by being there when they feel they have no one else to turn to.
  • Jeremiah’s Journey provides support for children, young people and their families when they are facing grief.
  • Whizz Kids provides disabled children and young people with the mobility equipment they need and supports them in learning essential life skills.
  • Beanstalk helps children to read.
  • The Access Project supports students from disadvantaged backgrounds to access top universities, through tuition and in-school mentoring.
  • The Mix is a UK based charity that provides free, confidential support for young people under 25 via online, social and mobile.

Environmental charities

  • Greenpeace defend the natural world, and stand for a green and peaceful future
  • Keep Britain Tidy campaigns to reduce litter, improve local places and prevent waste.
  • Wildlife trusts are a federation of 46 independent wildlife conservation charities covering the whole of the UK.
  • WWF is the world's leading independent conservation organisation.
  • Water Aid provides clean water and toilets to communities around the world.
  • Marine Conservation Society is a UK-wide community of ocean lovers.
  • Environmentjob provides environmental volunteering opportunities.

Animal charities

  • RSPCA specialise in animal rescue & furthering the welfare cause for all animals.
  • Dogs Trust is the UK's largest Dog Welfare Charity.
  • Cats Protection is the UK’s leading cat welfare charity.
  • Gables is a non euthanasia rescue and rehoming centre that has been helping the region’s unwanted and abandoned dogs and cats since 1907.
  • Bluecross an animal charity who have been helping sick, injured and homeless pets since 1897.
  • Animals Asia is devoted to ending bear bile farming and improving the welfare of animals across Asia.

Local charities

  • Plymouth Hospitals. As a Trust volunteer you’ll gain a unique insight into hospital life, receive relevant training (both of which will be great for your cv or life experience), as well as being a valuable part of the #1BigTeam.
  • Plymouth soup run is a community and faith driven service providing free food and hot drinks to homeless, hungry and vulnerable people 365 days a year.
  • Improving lives Plymouth is a charity at the heart of our community, supporting and inspiring people to improve their health and wellbeing.
  • Our Plymouth volunteering opportunities in Plymouth.
  • Volunteer Cornwall.
  • Livewell Southwest is an independent, award winning social enterprise providing integrated health and social care services for people across Plymouth, South Hams and West Devon.
  • Plymouth Octopus (POP) supports and leads real, purposeful and lasting change in Plymouth.​

Virtual volunteering

Many companies are now offering volunteering opportunities from the comfort of your own home. For example, you can volunteer for ‘Crisis’ or ‘Shout’ to offer support for 4 hours per week by taking calls from those in need. Other charities such as Oxfam offer volunteering positions such as ‘online listers’ and ‘customer care advisers’ for their online shops. There are so many opportunities like this available you just need to some searching.

Social media

Don’t forget to use your social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to follow volunteering organisations to find out the latest opportunities. LinkedIn is also a great way to keep in the loop.

Shout out!

Remember to let people know about your volunteering experience. Add it to your cv, LinkedIn profile and tell your friends, peers and course mates about the opportunities you have experienced. Spread the word about how valuable your volunteering experience was to you. 

Speculative applications

Want to gain experience for a particular organisation but they aren’t advertising volunteering positions? Contact them directly! This is called sending a speculative application.

Why not book an information and advice appointment with one of our advisers to help explain more about what to include in a speculative application.

UPSU Volunteering

There are many volunteering opportunities available through your student union here at the University of Plymouth. Find out what is available to you and sign up to the monthly newsletters to keep up to date with the latest opportunities.


"Volunteering gives you the opportunity to give back to your community. I have managed to become a leader and an effective team worker through my diverse volunteering history. I have made connections and built my network (crucial for future career prospects) and bagged a placement through this. You do it for free because it’s your passion and money could not buy the experiences you gain helping others in a society that need it. It gives you a buzz and something to be proud of."

Lea Scott, 2nd year criminal justice student

"Volunteering as one of the dance coaches with the University of Plymouth Dance Club (UPDC) has improved my confidence, especially when talking in front of large groups of people. It has also improved my organisational and time management skills, having to balance teaching two classes a week plus planning time around my studies. I have loved having a creative outlet at university as well as meeting some amazing new members and being a part of running the club that gave me so much during my first year! The role has been challenging, especially with the problems Covid has presented, but I'm really happy to have had something positive to focus on throughout this academic year! It also gave me a sense of pride seeing my classes progress and perform dances I'd choreographed!”

Jennifer Matcham, BSc (Hons) Psychology Stage 2.

Find out more about volunteering opportunities with UPSU.

“These experiences have made me much more confident in myself and my abilities as well as improving the chance of me getting a job within my chosen career.”

Lauren Fidler, BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Oceanography graduate now working as Data Officer at The Marine Biological Association. 

Find out more about Sea Watch.

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