So are you a bit stumped or a bit bored of your current employment situation?
Perhaps you want to volunteer to enhance your employment chances? Or to meet like minded museum & heritage people?
Well then it’s time to volunteer. Volunteering really enhances any CV or career prospects, it can lead to full time employment or meeting people who know of museum and heritage jobs.
I volunteer here. Doing this.I get up at 5.45 a.m and get three buses. In turn I have met new colleagues and been heightened my skills that are useful for working in museums in heritage. Skills as in collections management, conservation cleaning and packing and storing of artefacts.
I also volunteer for GEM Group for Education in Museums. I am the GEM All Ireland Correspondent. This role involves me collating heritage related events, jobs, research etc. for use in the GEM e-news. This information is also used on their Twitter and Facebook pages.
This is the sort of stuff I collate for them:
Volunteering with the National Trust is extremely rewarding. I also have my travel paid and receive a volunteer card. This card enables me to have 20% in all National Trust Shops & Cafe’s and free entry to the properties themselves. It also means that I can get myself and a friend in for free; as I am a National Trust member. I’m that much of a heritage geek.
Have I mentioned I <3 the National Trust? And Mount Stewart? I thought so. Just a few times.
My work with GEM (I’m currently between jobs atm. The job sector in Ireland is terrible)has lead to other opportunities. I will be working with them at this years Museum & Heritage Show. (Please do come say Hi!) I will also be speaking at the GEM annual conference in Leeds in September 2013.
Oh and I shall also be hopefully helping organise their conference in Ireland for 2014. Which I might be speaking at. Not scary. Not. At. All.
Okay now that I have detailed the perks & rewards of volunteering, I better get to ‘How to’ approach of finding somewhere to volunteer.
Why do you want to volunteer?
There are probably many reasons why you want to volunteer. But finding the main reason will help you find out where you want to volunteer.
Perhaps you want to volunteer at Country House? The National Trust and other like minded institutions can help with that.
Do you want to work with collections? Any Museum, Archive or Heritage Site can help with that if they have a volunteering team.
You want to work with visitor services? Every Museum & Heritage site has some form of visitor services. Your choice here is really varied; try to find what interests you and find a suitable institution. E.g. If you love railways, find a railway society or museum or if you love Military history find a military based or armoury based museum.
Now you can see why it’s important to have reasons for volunteering. Now we move onto….
How do I find a volunteering position?
Okay now there is a few things to think of in finding a volunteering position. The things I think of are:
+Time you can commit to the position.
+What skills can you offer?
+What skills can you gain?
If you don’t drive and where you want to volunteer is remote DON’T let this put you off. Can you get there by public transport? Do they pay expenses if you can? If the answer to both or one of these questions is yes, then go ahead and apply for the volunteering position.
You may be surprised in what you will learn and what training you receive. You may also get more training/added benefits for being a dedicated volunteer.
I regularly travel up to four hours using three buses to get to my volunteering position. It’s worth every penny of it as I’ve had (and still am) having a fantastic time. I’ve been entrusted with extra jobs normal volunteers don’t get to do because of my skills and it has benefited me enormously.
Time you can commit to the position:
Depending on your location and job/family/social/baking/cat sitting commitments you may only be able to dedicate one day every two weeks, or one day a month. Don’t let this put you off; most places are grateful of any help!
What skills can you offer?
This is really important because if you have extra skills than what the volunteer position is asking for you could be entrusted with extra duties. Extra duties = more experience.
Can you drive? Brilliant. You could use those skills to ferry tour groups about or if storage facilities are off site.
Can you use Microsoft word, excel and social media? Excellent. Particularly with small museums/historical societies who do not have a great digital presence or lack of knowledge of Microsoft.
Have you got customer service skills? Fantastic. These can be used by museum education teams, front of house volunteers and nearly every museum department.
What skills can you gain?
If you are looking to gain skills in specific museum departments its important to see out volunteer positions that can provide this. I wanted more collections & conservation training and The National Trust was the best option for that.
If you want to be more hands with front of house duties, galleries are more suited for this sort of work. The same with looking experience in educational departments; look for a museum that has a well established education department.
I hope this post has been useful to you in finding a volunteer position. I’d love to hear of your volunteering opportunities and experiences. Tweet me @NylonsAndAll or comment below.
And don’t forget to have fun!