If you’re looking to break into the third sector as a career but don’t know where to start, volunteering might be the easiest way to get some valuable experience and insight onto your CV.

Long-time Hub Cymru Africa volunteer James McGraw had recently completed an international development degree at Cardiff University when he first thought about the value of getting some volunteer experience under his belt. “I started volunteering with Hub Cymru Africa after as a means to break into the third sector in a full-time role,” he explains. “I found that, without relevant voluntary experience, non-profit roles were very hard to successfully apply for.”

He initially undertook general duties to help narrow down which area of the third sector he wanted to pursue as a career. “When I first enquired with Hub Cymru Africa, I was willing to carry out just about any form of work for them as I hadn’t yet identified a specific area I wanted to work in within a charitable organisation,” he says. “My first role ended up being developing a centralised spreadsheet using Microsoft SharePoint that allowed all staff to access funding opportunities for projects in African countries. From here, I started to move more in a communications direction as I realised the benefit of having a clear idea of what area I wanted to work in within a development organisation. From there, Hub Cymru Africa obliged by getting me in contact with the Communications Manager and I started to assist with elements of editing the website, giving me vital experience of CMS platform management.”

Volunteer work can also be more flexible than paid work, with the option to work around your current job or responsibilities. “Most of my work with Hub Cymru Africa was carried out online, remotely, and at flexible times. This suited me really well as I was working and wouldn’t have been able to perform a role that required me to be in the office regularly.”

As well as the work James carried out, his involvement with Hub Cymru Africa also helped to introduce him to other experiences. We contacted James in the summer of 2019 to see if he wanted to work on a fundraising campaign with UCU Partners UK – a Pembrokeshire-based charity that works to support the Uganda Christian University. “Carrying out this lead fundraising and communications role allowed me to get to grips with managing campaigns, using WordPress, and using Mailchimp to create newsletters for supporters,” James says. “The campaign was also very satisfying as we raised enough funds to buy a Spirometre to help with practical training at the School of Medicine at Uganda Christian University.”

James credits his volunteering experience with helping him to land his first role in the third sector, in communications. “ Prior to working with Hub Cymru Africa, my CV was lacking in the volunteering experience that is often required in get in at a non-profit organisation, and I’m grateful for all the skills the role taught me to allow me to finally secure a full-time, paid position in the third sector,” he says. “I also got to interact with some great people, who I’ll be sure to stay in contact with and hopefully work with again in the future!”

He encourages others who want to break into the sector to consider volunteering as a route to their chosen job. “My main advice for future volunteers at Hub Cymru Africa would be that, if you’re ambitious and want to learn more and more skills to enhance your CV, just ask. Hub Cymru Africa were really receptive to me whenever I showed a keenness to undertake a new challenge and I believe this proved helpful in the end for me getting my communications job.”

We welcome volunteering applications from people from all backgrounds, and can help identify a placement to match your skills and experience. If you’d like to speak to our team about volunteering, email enquiries@hubcymru.org.uk to start the conversation.