To celebrate National Volunteering Week, we look at why it’s not just something for jobseekers to do. 

When you’re looking for a job, everyone tells you to get volunteering. And, of course, it’s brilliant advice but it doesn’t have to stop once you’ve landed that job. In fact, it can make a difference to your career if you carry on volunteering while you’re working. We had a chat with some O2 employees who volunteer while also holding down a full-time job to find out why they give up their time.

“It’s good to give something back,” says Joanne Powell, who volunteered last year to support school students in the Slough area in a project with O2 where they had to come up with inventive ways to encourage children to recycle. “When I was at school, I was really pushed towards the university route. So I think it’s good to show kids that that’s not the only option for working for a big company and by working with them on these kind of projects I can do that.”

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In Joanne’s nine to five, she’s an apprentice in the supply chain team but thinks that it’s important to do something more than just what she’s there for. “I’m not required to take part in these projects,” she explains. “I do it because I think it’s good to give something back, and it’s nice to have a change from the usual day to day business.”

Jennie Quinn says that one of the reasons she decided to take her job in the learning and development team at O2 was the fact that they allow and encourage staff to get involved with volunteering projects. “I’ve always volunteered,” she says. “When I was 11 I taught disabled children to ride horses, so the fact that I could volunteer in this job was a deciding factor for me.”

Jennie has volunteered at a number of Think Big School events, where she works with school children to come up with an app idea that they start to build. “It’s great working with kids,” she says. “At the beginning of the day they’re often shy and don’t say much. But at the end of the day they’re always really proud of what they’ve achieved.”

Sandra Follett has got involved with a number of different volunteering projects while working at O2, including helping to raise money and plant a new garden area for stroke victims at a local hospital. She says that it’s a great way to network with new people. “You get to meet other people from different teams and find out what they’re doing. It also gives you a good idea of the direction that the business is headed in.”

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As well as giving something back to the community, Joanne, Jennie and Sandra all say that volunteering has really boosted their careers. “It’s really boosted my confidence,” Joanne says. “Before I got involved in this project, I’d have never known how to work with young children. It’s also helped me to learn leadership skills as I’d never had any experience of that before.”

Jennie says that her CV has benefited from having volunteering on there too. “I think it impresses employers as it gives them a bit of an idea about the kind of person you are.”

Sandra adds that it makes it clear that you’re interested in more than just your day job. “It’s fun,” she says. “Everyone should volunteer – just do it! There’s something out there to suit everyone.”

A lot of companies have similar volunteering schemes to O2, where employees can take time out of their normal day jobs to get involved in community projects. Obviously we’ve said time and time again how helpful volunteering can be in building experience and developing your skills but even if you volunteer in an industry that isn’t directly related to what you want to do for the rest of your life it can be valuable. It shows employers a bit more about the kind of person you are – that you have interests outside of work and are actively engaged in making a positive difference to the world. And if you’re applying for a job with an employer that has a volunteering scheme (do your research before your interview to find this out!), it’s worth mentioning any volunteering that you’ve previously been involved in as that could show them that you’re the kind of person who understand their company culture.

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