Insight, experience and transferable skills - volunteering for graduates

I guess this story will sound familiar to most graduates. You spend a few years of your life studying something you love but, once you are out of the cosy walls of the library the real world leaves you jobless and wondering how to stand out from hundreds of people who, as you, want to work in the arts and heritage sector. You have some skills but as your experience is limited your position in the pecking order of the job market is low.

So, what do you do next?

Volunteering for the trust

I discovered The Churches Conservation Trust as a BA student in beautiful York. As I was working on a module about medieval art, volunteering in the Gothic parish church seemed an interesting way to gain knowledge and become more confident whilst working with the public. So, I volunteered as a Member of the Welcome Team. My role involved; welcoming visitors, answering enquiries and giving tours of Holy Trinity Church in Goodramgate.

At this point I had no idea that I would fall in love with medieval churches, neither had I thought that I would become confident talking to different members of the public. After my volunteering experience I decided to pursue an MA in the Gothic Architecture at The Courtauld Institute of Art.

Gaining vital experience

After graduating I set out to find a role that combined my love for medieval churches with a need to develop my understanding of delivering events in the arts and heritage sector.

The Events and Office Assistant role at The Churches Conservation Trust was perfect. The role would give me the chance to be back in an organisation I knew and liked and also involved a variety of tasks related to administration and hospitality.

From my very first day I felt like a member of the team performing different tasks and getting to know everyone. Apart from daily office management tasks, I was to help plan, deliver and evaluate the Marsh Volunteer of the Year Awards - an annual ceremony established to award the most active volunteers and celebrate their vital contribution to the trust.

The organisation of the event gave me a chance to carry out a range of different tasks which would develop my experience, including;

  • Drafting documents
  • Creating registration lists and contacting attendees
  • Answering queries from staff and attendees
  • Producing name badges,
  • Organising goodie bags
  • Assembling marketing banners

Volunteering at the trust has given me great insight into its activities and profiles both at the local and national level. Volunteering at York was a great introduction to the trust and its purpose. Similarly, helping at the London office enables me to see other teams working on different projects, giving me a clear picture of how much work has to be delivered in order to keep a charity going.

Why you should volunteer?

Every single day volunteering is different and involves a new challenge. My tasks are always fully explained and from day one I felt that my work was contributing to the smooth running of the office. I am given the chance to manage my own workload whilst always being able to ask for help and advice. It is this support that allows me to use my initiative, safe in the knowledge that the others are happy to help if I get stuck.  

So if you are looking for a volunteering opportunity which gives insight into the heritage sector and makes you feel part of a dedicated and hardworking team, The Churches Conservation Trust is definitely a place to consider.  

Agata Eltman - Development Assistant

For more information on volunteering at the trust visit our volunteers section for news, opportunities and a chance to get to know the volunteering team.