Warwick student volunteers share here how they have used their volunteering experiences in successful job or further studies applications and interviews. Student Careers & Skills advisers have suggested how you can even improve it and adapt it.
These examples can inspire you, remember that you should reflect your own experiences.
Warwick Volunteers (May 2015 – Present)
- President of the executive committee (Mar 2016 – Present) – overseeing the smooth running of the organisation.
- Student Tutor (Jan 2016 – Present) – classroom assistant in a school for 11-18 year olds with special educational needs.
- Buddy Club Project Leader (May 2015 – Mar 2016) - organising weekly visits to a care home for the elderly.
Phab, Volunteer (Aug 2013 – Present)
- Helping at a weekly club night for young people with mental/physical disabilities at Warwick Youth Phab (http://warwickyouth.phab.org.uk/) .
- Assisting on annual week-long residential breaks being made responsible for the 24 hour care of some individuals.
Newman Holiday Trust, Volunteer (August 2016)
- 1:1 care of a child with autism including personal care, ensuring health, well-being and a fun experience.
University of Warwick, Classical and Modern Dance, Contemporary Teacher (Jun 2015 – Mar 2016)
- Teaching a weekly dance class for beginners with the aim of developing technique and confidence.
Kimberley Rainbows (Girl Guiding Association), Young Leader (Nov 2008 – Jul 2014)
- Helped to run and organise the pack, planned games and crafts, and assisted on trips out.
I volunteer in a school for those with special educational needs every Thursday afternoon. A couple of weeks ago we were in a music lesson about Scottish music and the teacher had choreographed a short dance. I had been asked to support a boy who gets very anxious and has communication difficulties. He was feeling particularly anxious and did not want to join in. I tried gentle encouragement but he was adamant he didn’t want to take part. I persevered and asked him what he had to lose. I told him if he sat and watched he would completely miss out but if he had a go then he could always decide he didn’t like it and sit down again but maybe he would like it and carry on! Eventually he reluctantly joined in – I was his partner and he carried on for the rest of the lesson. The teacher and the teaching assistant were in shock that he actually joined in and now he joins in with musical activities every week .
"This is a brilliant example using the CARE framework and the only suggestion would be to add a sentence or two about evaluating the actions. What would you say you could have done differently and why? What would you do the same way again and why?"
I volunteer with children with special needs in an educational capacity in a school and also with a charity at a youth club and on residential visits. Many of the children I work with have communication issues and use Makaton to communicate. Makaton is a language programme using signs and symbols to help people to communicate. It is designed to support spoken language and the signs and symbols are used with speech, in spoken word order. I couldn’t afford to go on the course so I bought a couple of books and also use YouTube to teach myself. I was in the school the other week and used a word and the children quickly told me that’s not how you do it!. It was a little bit embarrassing but I’d much rather them tell me when I go wrong. I think learning from a book and peoples’ personal YouTube video is inevitably going to lead to imperfections so I’m happy to get some guidance from people that use it regularly.
"This example could maybe be reframed into positive language- e.g. ‘Youtube provides an opportunity to learn and develop skills’(remove nots/onlys/embarrassed etc) ’I felt a bit embarrassed and/or angry, as I had worked really hard. However, when I had time to think about it, I realized that learning from books and other people’s videos is inevitably going to lead to imperfections. To address this, I would….’"
I volunteer at a school for children with special educational needs every Thursday afternoon. In the class there are two teaching assistants, a teacher and 8 pupils. A few weeks ago, I was assigned to work with a girl who finds writing extremely difficult. We were in a music lesson and had to match up photos of instruments with their names by writing the names next to the picture. The girl was adamant that she didn’t want to write and instead she wanted to cut and stick. I suggested to one of the teaching assistants that she could cut and stick first and then she could try writing them out after. The teaching assistant said to just let her cut and stick. She did that first but I was determined to help her to write out the words. Another teaching assistant suggested that I write the names with a yellow pen and she followed it. However, I thought I would see if I could encourage her to do it on her own first. She really didn’t want to do it. So I said to her that I would write half of the first word and she would have to finish it off. She agreed and I gradually wrote less and less on the next words until she wrote the whole of the last 3 words herself .
I volunteer at a special needs school and was asked to help out with sports day. My task was to supervise a particular class of eight and make sure they were sensible when supporting their friends and went to activities they were called up for. One boy refused to go to his race because he thought he would look like an ‘idiot’. I signaled to the leader to wait two minutes and spend spent time persuading the boy (ASD, global development delay, dyspraxia) to take part. I did this by explaining to him what the feeling of winning was like since emotions are quite hard for him to understand. He did eventually do it and won bronze.
"Other excellent CARE examples. The 'E' Evaluation could do with a sentence to reflect on the learning - what you did that led to the success. E.g. on the last one: ‘ I feel that by taking the time to explain in a way that the student would understand he was willing to take part.’"
I have mainly worked with children in the past so I decided to challenge myself and become leader of a project at university called Buddy club. This involves planning and running weekly activities at a care home and taking a group of volunteers along to help out every Wednesday afternoon of term time. In my first few weeks in the role, we had more relaxed sessions and just talked to the residents with tea and biscuits. It was my responsibility to make sure everyone was comfortable and happy. We sat around tables of a mixture of students and residents. I started off by asking the residents questions about what they had done that week but got very limited answers. I was concerned that the residents didn’t really want to be at the session. However, after asking a few more questions, I quickly realised that the residents were happier talking about the past or their families. I adapted my approach and began to focus conversations on their careers and childhood as well as their children and grandchildren, whilst encouraging the other students to do the same. We quickly found that the residents became much more comfortable and happy to be around us. Now I am told that they want buddy club to visit every day!
"Strengthen by summarizing why the approach taken was effective . ‘By actively listening to probe residents I was able to deliver something that met their needs more effectively.’"
I would say there is three main ways I can demonstrate leadership qualities. Firstly, I am a leader for a volunteering project at my university called Buddy club. This involves taking a group of volunteers to a local care home. I am in charge of planning and leading activities, organising transport for the volunteers and encouraging everyone to get involved and have fun.
"This example could be strengthened applying CARE"
Helping an older lady with amnesia remember a few aspects from her life is the achievement I am most proud of. I met this lady last summer, when I visited a care home with Warwick Volunteers. Conversing with her was more challenging than expected. As she had serious hearing deficiencies, I resorted to using gestures, repeating my words, and speaking very clearly. The conversation required deep concentration from my part, from making efforts to understand her, to continually thinking of ways to help her express herself, by providing clues, examples, and helping questions. I felt an immense spiritual satisfaction when the lady eventually managed, with my help, to remember the names of some places she visited, especially because she was unhappy that she could not remember them. I reached the conclusion that training the human mind is similar to training for a sport: the more you practice, the more it improves. I felt proud that I could provide this support for her.
"This example should also benefit from more evaluation. Would you do it again, did the experience give you any insight in how to communicate with people generally? Will you continue volunteering?"
Furthermore, my interpersonal skills will help me initiate and build relationships with clients. During my internship, I approached various professionals in order to gain insight into their work , while during my time with Warwick Volunteers, I have been approaching and interacting with different kinds of students and volunteers. My experience as an impromptu debater will also prove valuable when working in such a fast-paced environment, while my writing abilities (developed by posting on the Warwick Volunteers blog and social media and by writing 19 briefing memos during my internship) will be a boon when writing short notes and reports at BAML.
"Brilliant – the last exemple has got all CARE elements! You could develop the other examples: Was approaching professionals successful? Why/why not? What skills does debating develop?"
Throughout my degree, I have put all my efforts into attaining the skills needed for a career in finance. By being a tutor, I developed my communication skills, as I had to explain concepts clearly and in multiple ways. My planning abilities are benefitting greatly from my experience as a Media and Communications officer for Warwick Volunteers. For instance, in order to organise a selfie competition promoting the volunteering fair, I, together with the other members of the student executive committee, took care of all the preparatory aspects, from booking venues, to ensuring we have all the necessary materials.
"Good example, you could re-order it according to CARE and be more specific about how the communication and planning skills are being used elsewhere in your course (this is the Evaluation)"
I strongly believe that my background and skills will help me succeed on the MSc programme and bring a valuable contribution to the UCL community. I describe myself as a committed and devoted person, who puts passion into the activities I undertake. This is evidenced by the ideas I have implemented in my two roles at Warwick Volunteers, which have positively impacted the organisation : I developed and implemented a process to improve the student feedback mechanism and I also used my creativity to develop ingenious ways of promoting the volunteering opportunities available to students.
"You could add an example showing how you promoted the volunteering opportunities to students"