Volunteering – a pathway to paid employment

Volunteering is a great way to help your community by doing unpaid work while learning new skills, keeping socially connected, and, potentially, finding paid employment.

How will volunteering help you?

Volunteering is a great way to help your community by doing unpaid work while learning new skills, keeping socially connected, and, potentially, finding paid employment.

People from all walks of life have used volunteering as a step to finding their first or a new job. It helps people to maintain or develop skills and gain work experiences that employers are looking for. There are a surprising variety of volunteer roles available in areas as diverse as music, sports, law, administration, education and retail, to name a few. You're bound to find something that's both interesting and relevant to your chosen career. We have included some real case studies to illustrate how volunteering can make a difference.

Celina has just had her first baby. She is young and determined to provide a stable income to support her baby and herself. She found a role as a volunteer advocate at a Maori women’s refuge. This role required 10 weeks training which together with the experience she gained and the support of the local volunteer centre, gave her the confidence to approach another community agency and gain a paid position as an administrator. Work and Income provided the initial funding for this role through their Skills Investment Scheme.

Voluntary work also gives you the opportunity to build networks that can help you to find other jobs. The people you work with can act as your referees or may alert you to paid jobs when they become available. People who volunteer have also said they feel more confident when approaching job interviews and other work situations. Okesene’s experience is a good example:

After 25 years working for the railways as an electrical engineer, Okesene was made redundant. He was keen to try something new and had always had an interest in social work. With the help of the local volunteer centre, he found a volunteer position with Wesley Community Action. Like the pieces of a jigsaw falling into place, his confidence was restored through the interesting and challenging work as a volunteer. The team at Wesley soon noticed Okesene’s enthusiasm and he was offered a paid position shortly after starting as a volunteer.

Recent migrants to New Zealand often use volunteering as a way to get local experience to back up their qualifications and improve their English.

Chen moved to New Zealand from China at the age of 17. After finishing a Bachelor of Commerce at Victoria University, he realised that his lack of New Zealand work experience was a barrier to finding a job here. He decided to take up a volunteer position at the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind. Chen has since found a full time job as a support officer at the Ministry of Social Development. “There are a lot of similarities between the work I did at the Royal NZ Foundation of the Blind and what I do now,” he says. “I feel really satisfied that my voluntary work experience has paid off.”

As well as helping you find paid work, volunteering is fun and rewarding in itself. Giving some of your time can make a big difference in the lives of others. At the same time, you get to meet new people and experience new situations and challenges.