5 Ways Volunteering Helps You Achieve Career Goals


Volunteering is something that we often heard about in school or college. We were encouraged to spend a few weeks at our local charity shop and include it on our CVs. Its purpose was to give us work experience when we couldn’t get a job yet. And to help our applications for whatever next step we wanted to take. I later came to realise that volunteering can still help us further down the line in our careers. On top of this it allows us to give our time helping an organisation’s cause. We can gain experience in a new industry and develop new skills sets. We can also build relationships with people that could lead us to our next opportunity!

Read on if you have a science background and are looking for a career change, networking or skills-building opportunities. Here are 5 ways you can volunteer your way to achieve your goals:

  1. Become a STEM Ambassador

As a STEM Ambassador, you commit to volunteering just once a year for a STEM related activity. This can be in a school or related organisation. This includes sharing scientific knowledge with students by delivering a fun activity to inspire them. Or, you can do career-focused activities like mock interviews or speed networking. STEM Learning in the UK provides training and resources for ambassadors to use during these activities, as well as hosting networking events for ambassadors and the teachers they work with. The benefit of doing this role is the flexibility and low time commitment of just one activity per year, plus the wealth of support you get from an organisation like STEM Learning. For more information on becoming a STEM Ambassador, click here.

  1. Volunteer at Science Festivals

If you enjoy event volunteering and science communication, a festival could be a great way to experience event management. There are often a variety of science-led organisations exhibiting at these events, where you can network in a fun environment. It can be a busy and fast-paced atmosphere, so if you like high energy and pace it’s for you! There are many festivals that take place across the UK throughout the year, find out more here.

  1. Become a Museum Volunteer

Attention museum geeks! This could be for you if you are fascinated by museum exhibitions and curious about what goes on behind-the-scenes. This is a great way to learn about areas such as curation, visitor experience, education and events. If you are interested in a career at a museum, it can also be a great way to start building your experience and networks. It can be a competitive industry to get into so this can give you an edge. Click here for volunteer roles at the Natural History Museum, London. Click here for volunteer roles at the Science Museum Group, UK.

  1. Go Back to Your Old University

If you are looking to build or strengthen your networks, go back to your university. Offer to give a career talk or attend a networking event. Many organisations offer opportunities to represent them at a career event, either on a stall or via a presentation. There are usually ways to do this by responding to opportunities advertised on the university website. Or you can contact them directly as an alumnus. This can be a valuable way of developing on the job by doing something ‘extra-curricular’. It can help you improve your presentations skills and build your network as there will be other organisations at these events too. Start by visiting your university’s website and seeing what opportunities they currently have.

  1. Mentor others

Mentoring others means you will be meeting up with someone who needs guidance in a particular area e.g. career development or improving a specific skill set. A mentoring relationship requires you to be an effective listener, be open to sharing your experiences to help the mentee, and to be honest by sharing feedback to help them along their journey. You can often do this over a period of at least 6 months, and can continue for as long as you both find the experience valuable. By taking on such a role, you are not only helping someone else, but you are developing qualities that will help you as a leader, manager, or team member. This is for you if you enjoy helping someone on a 1:1 basis, can make a commitment over a longer period of time, and are looking to develop your leadership skills. You can do this via your current employer, a STEM Ambassador role or volunteering at your university, but you can also search online for specific organisations that run mentoring schemes. Another option is to reach out to someone you already help and share your knowledge with – you may already be seen as a mentor for someone and don’t know it yet!  

No matter what your goal is, volunteering can be a route into new opportunities and experiences for you. There is so much variety out there, and lots of people and organisations that need help too. Consider what your career or personal goal is first, and then explore the opportunities above or use them as inspiration to find ones that are right for you.

If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, book a Beyond the Lab Breakthrough Session here.


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