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AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
AHEAD: Association for Higher Education Access & Disability
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Volunteering & Work Experience

It is a good idea to start thinking about getting some work experience on your CV before your final year so that when you graduate you can demonstrate to a potential employer the skills you developed and stand out from the crowd!

All work experience, regardless of whether it is paid, unpaid, a summer job, a weekend job or just one day a week is valuable. Most students consider getting a part-time job while in college for purely financial reasons but why not think about getting some work experience which can contribute to your learning and is related to your future career?

The Benefits

Having volunteer or work experience on your CV while you have been studying is a great way to show potential employers that you are motivated, eager to work and able to balance the demands of work and study.

Aside from boosting your CV, it can be a great way to prepare you for the world of work and help you to recognise some of the difficulties you may encounter in the workplace due to your disability. For example, understanding the need for additional supports or reasonable accommodations to ensure that you can carry out the job to the best of your ability. However, remember that if you are volunteering and you have no contractual agreement in place, unfortunately the employer does not have legal obligation to provide you with any reasonable accommodation.

Where to start?

Before you start your search for work experience, think about the answers to these questions;

  • How will you manage your time?
  • What days or times of the week are you free?
  • Remember to be aware of any other commitments such as submission dates for your assignments, examination periods, medical appointments you may have, time for studying and also time for yourself!

Once you have reviewed your time schedule and the periods you are willing to commit, you think can decide which route of work experience works better for you whether it is part-time, holiday or seasonal work or volunteering one evening or one day a week.

You should also update your CV and perhaps draft an informal cover letter or email if necessary. Check out our section on Job Seeking Tips for help with that side of things.

Where can I get work experience?

Firstly, why not start with your college’s careers website to see if there are any opportunities available online for the type of work experience you are looking for?

If you are interested in seasonal work such as the Christmas season don’t forget that some of the big department stores and supermarkets are amongst the biggest graduate recruiters so this could be a way to get noticed by them.

Don’t dismiss working with smaller organisations such as small medium enterprises which may present you with more responsibilities and independence than in a larger company.

Charities and voluntary organisations are always on the lookout for volunteers to assist them with administration, helping out with fundraising, promoting the cause so why not think about contacting a charity where you feel you could make a difference in? The great thing about volunteering is that it can give you the opportunity to perhaps try out new skills or develop a passion for something you didn’t know you had! It could be working with the elderly, homelessness, people with disabilities, advocacy and campaigning, conservation projects or even volunteering abroad in the summer.

Why not considering volunteering in an organisation that represents your disability? For example, if you are blind or visually impaired, you could volunteer in an organisation that works with and for blind people. Or perhaps if you feel there is not enough done for a person with your disability, why not research and come up with ideas in establishing your own organisation or support group. For example, if you have dyslexia but yet you feel like perhaps there is a lack of resources or support groups in your area, you could set up your very own blog, blogging about your experience, setting up a support group liaising with another organisation.

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