As soon as you decided you wanted a career change in social care you probably spent a fair bit of time on job sites or your local council website. How many times did the ad say “1 years’ experience essential”…”must have worked in sector for a minimum of 18 months”…After a while it makes you feel like that new career is just out of reach. Everyone’s looking for experience, but no-one is willing to give you the chance to actually get
that experience. It’s pretty frustrating.
For many people who are fresh out of uni, made the decision to work instead of going into further education or just want to change jobs, social care is many people’s go-to career move. It’s one of the most socially-focussed career options and gives you a huge sense of fulfilment…so why can it be so hard to break into?
Other than making sure you’ve got the right qualifications and skill-set for the job you’re interested in, how else can you realise your career in social care? Voluntary work could be the answer! It’s the ideal opportunity to gain practical experience and gain a real insight into the real-life aspects of the role, like getting to know the people you’re helping, and the social implications involved.
So why would you opt for voluntary experience over paid work?
Firstly, if you can get paid work, that’s great! But, many employers are looking for certain experience in specific areas of social care, so this can often be unachievable for many people, especially if it’s your first role in this industry. If you don’t have the right experience but you still manage to land a paid role, you’re certainly onto a winner! But don’t get too excited, if your employer has had to compromise on experience or (at a push) qualifications, you’ll find your salary is much lower than your experienced/qualified counterparts for doing pretty much the same job.
People mostly choose voluntary work as an alternative to a salaried job because they’re easier to come by and help you get a job once you’ve accrued the necessary amount of experience, often at much higher salary. You’re more likely to land a voluntary or intern role and this in turn equips you with the practical experience that so many employers deem necessary.
Volunteering is like a no-strings relationship – sure you’re responsible for making it to the work every day, and of course the company you’re working with wants you to turn up too – but, voluntary work acts like a taster. You can trial the industry and after a reasonable amount of time (don’t turn up for 2 weeks and decide it’s not for you) you can advise of giving notice and leaving if you find it’s really not for you. It’s much harder to treat your full-time job as a taster – so volunteering is the ideal way of dipping your toe in the water before you fully commit to this career move.
So, it’s more achievable and gives you the chance to ‘trial’ the industry, but how else can volunteering support your career in social care?
If you’re set on making a career in social care, it’s likely you wanted to be part of the industry because of the ‘human element’ – being around people, helping them, caring for them and being the person they rely on, in whatever way, has a big appeal for many people. By volunteering your time, you’re getting a piece of the feel-good pie – you’ll build personal relationships and learn how to navigate different personalities and social situations.
How do you decide where to volunteer?
Fast forward a year or so and think about what area you’re looking to work in – that could be with children and young people, in life coaching, grief counselling, or supporting people who are suffering from drug and solvent abuse. Specialising your volunteering efforts gives you the platform to launch your new career as you’ll be gaining the experience that’s right for your career aspirations.
You might find opportunities to volunteer in schools with young people’s counsellors or volunteer for your local outreach group who support people through grief. Understand where you want to be and options for voluntary work will follow. In some cases, if you make a good impression, some employers even offer full time and paid opportunities to volunteers. This is worth enquiring about during the initial stages as it’s something to work towards!
Voluntary work presents itself as the ideal opportunity to experience the industry you’re considering a full-time career in – you gain a real insight into people’s lives and procure the hands-on experience that so many employers look for.
And it’s not just the people you’re directly helping that benefit – you’ll get the opportunity to build relationships with the people behind the scenes and communicate with those in the social care sphere that can be overlooked. Start volunteering and support your new career in social care.
If the next step for you is getting the right qualifications, take a look at our Comprehensive Counselling skills course:
tell me more