It’s National Volunteers’ Week this week, celebrating the contribution that millions of people make across the UK through volunteering. We sat down (at a distance of course!) with Sophie from our Business Development Team to find out more about her time as an Ambassador for both Women’s Aid and Whizz Kidz, where she has donated her time and experience for over a year and a half.
Thanks for joining us Sophie, firstly, what made you choose Women’s Aid and Whizz Kidz to donate your time to?
“I wanted to give back to the community, I’m quite an active person so Whizz Kidz really resonated with me, I wanted to physically get involved and be hands on and help disabled children live life to the full and reach their true potential.
[In regards to Women’s Aid] I’m a bit of a feminist I suppose! I want to empower women. I saw an article online how women don’t know their rights regarding domestic abuse, this sparked an interest with me, and I wanted to do what I could to help tackle this. This led me to Women’s Aid where I became an ambassador and volunteered for my local branch, Cardiff Women’s Aid.”
Tell us a little bit about what support both charities offer, and your role with them.
“As an ambassador for Women’s Aid, the main thing I’ve been trying to do is encourage organisations to have a domestic violence policy in place. It encourages people to feel confident in the workplace to confide in a manager, due to the sensitive nature of this some companies may not know how best to support their colleagues in this – this policy may give the victim confidence to come forward and ask for help.
Through Women’s Aid organisations can have access to training and support on implementing policies, support services and advice on having provisions in place to help the victim feel supported and safe at work. It encourages people to have a voice.” You can read more about organisation support from Women’s Aid here.
This more so is important during lockdown, the National Domestic Abuse Helpline reported a 400% spike in visits to its website since lockdown began. For those that want a confidential chat and advice, you can contact Women’s Aid directly, they can offer support, source housing, and offer counselling.
“Careers Ready is a young person’s charity for people from underprivileged or disadvantaged backgrounds that are looking to progress in a career or attend university and want to make a difference in their life. They have access to training courses, a mentor to enable them to gain the confidence to progress in these areas.”
During lockdown you’ve been holding virtual sessions with both Women’s Aid and Careers Ready, what kind of things have you covered?
“I launched Sophie’s Academy that has weekly virtual sessions that cover:
CV and cover letter writing – modern ways to write a CV, how to stand out and advice from an employer’s point of view.
Applying for jobs – what to consider, where to look and identify good jobs.
Interview preparation and skills.
Post interview – collecting feedback, reviewing interview questions that you may have found challenging and your mindset.”
Sophie’s been sharing her tips after the session for those that are unable to make it or are looking for advice and support on her personal LinkedIn page, we’ve linked these above.
You’ve received positive feedback from both your peers and attendees, what would you like people to take away from the sessions?
“Have the confidence, sometimes there can be a negative mindset if people get knocked back straight away which is understandable. It’s quite a tough industry at the moment, getting a job can be difficult, it’s not against you. I know applying for jobs and attending interviews can be daunting, especially if you’ve been out of work for a few years for whatever reason. These sessions will give people the skills and confidence and belief in themselves that they can do it. Don’t be afraid to contact employers to see what you have to do to get these opportunities.”
Like you’ve said, it is a tough market at the moment for some industries, what top tips would you give to someone that is looking for a career currently?
- Reach out to others for support and advice, at any level. There’s a lot of support now through online training and networking.
- Understand the industry and jobs availability during lockdown, you can do this through following the organisations on social media or getting in touch with them directly.
- You may have to adapt or change industries, look at this as a side-step and an opportunity to gain transferable skills.
- Reach out a recruitment agency, use recruiters as a support tool and for their expertise – they’re there to help you!
- Be positive, move forward, utilise my videos and don’t be afraid to reach out.
Currently the way we volunteer has changed and people have adapted to this. Charities are one of the industries that have been hit hard by the pandemic but are still working hard to support people that depend on them. What advice would you give to anyone thinking about volunteering?
“I’d 100% encourage them to do it, it’s so rewarding and really uplifts you and has a positive difference on your mental health. You don’t have to volunteer 10 hours a week, by sharing your skills or experience you can really help to make a difference. Find something you’re passionate about and reach out to charities, for me, it’s about helping those that don’t have a voice.
I’d really encourage people to share what they’re doing – it not only spreads awareness for the charities but encourages others to do the same. If we all did something, no matter how small, it can all add up to make a big difference.”
Sophie’s caught the volunteering bug – Sophie has recently volunteered to be part of the NHS befriending service, offering virtual befriending to patients that don’t have any support. Once it’s safe to do so, Sophie will be able to spend time in hospitals, talking to patients and offering a friendly face and someone to talk to – helping to reduce loneliness in the community.
You can find more about Volunteers’ week and how to get involved in your local area here.