Tag Archives: Volunteering

Making the Most of Your Summer

Exams are almost over and it’s nearly time for a well-deserved summer break. Travelling, volunteering abroad and summer placements are popular ways to build your skills and experience during the long stretch of time between June and September, but don’t worry if you haven’t got one of them lined up as there are plenty of things that you can do to make the most of your summer.

Four things that you can do to make the most of your summer

  1. Volunteer in the UK – Volunteering is a fantastic way to help others and give something back to the community. Not only that, it can also help you to gain valuable experience, especially if you are thinking of going into an industry such as media, charity, heritage or other areas where it’s more difficult to secure paid work. If you’re not sure about what you might want to do after university, volunteering can also be a good short-term way of finding out what an industry is like to help you narrow down your choices.
  2. Work Shadow – Similar to volunteering, work shadowing is a great way to gain exposure to an industry that you think might interest you, but in this case it’s likely to be far more short-term and hands off, maybe only a week at a time. Lots of companies are happy to allow someone in just to observe, and it has the added benefit of helping you meet a wider variety of people and build up your crucial professional network!
  3. Read – Reading is a fantastic way to spend your spare time; whether you’re on the beach, in a park, or listening to the rain outside your window you can settle down and get stuck into a good book. Think about using part of your holiday to dig into some of your more interesting course material, read through articles to build your commercial awareness, or just to relax and get stuck into a novel that you’ve been meaning to get around to!
  4. Work on a Personal Project – Is there a project that you’ve not managed to find the time for? Now that your lectures, assignments and exams are out of the way, pour some of your energy and time into something that really interests you. You could aim to write a blog post or an online article on a topic that you’re passionate about, try to build an app that you had an idea for, or even start writing up a plan for your own business idea.

If you need any help with your career planning, don’t forget that the Careers Service is still open as normal for the next few weeks and then for slightly reduced hours over the summer months:

21 June 2016 – 16 September, 1.30 pm – 4.45pm Monday to Friday
(Careers Service closed Monday 20th June)

Funding internships/work experience, volunteering and travel

We meet a lot of students and graduates who are looking for funding for a range of career-related activities, such as internships/work experience, volunteering and travel. This can be a difficult question since there are few straightforward sources of funding for any of these things. However, if you are creative in your search, there are some options to explore.

Funding internships and work experience

The University of Bristol Internship Scheme is open to all University of Bristol students and graduates from the last 3 years, including international students (as long as you have permission to work in the UK). The scheme provides funding for internships with a Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) i.e. not employing more than 250 people, or a Not-For-Profit Organisation (NPO).

There is also a lot of useful information on our work experience and internship pages e.g. advice about things to consider when taking unpaid work in the work experience and internship FAQs section. If you would like any further advice on this topic please do come and talk to one of our Careers Advisers.

Funding travel and volunteering

The University of Bristol Student Funding Office invites applications for the Knowlson Trust Travel Awards for travel which is not part of the applicant’s academic studies. These are made from a bequest by Mr John McKerrow Knowlson, Chartered Mechanical and Electrical Engineer of Bristol, and supplemented by grants from the University of Bristol Alumni Foundation.

The following information on travel grants and bursaries was compiled by the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services (AGCAS) and NASES (National Association of Student Employment Services) members. 

Organisations that offer bursaries or funding:

Other possible sources of funding:

Alternative sources of funding 

There are some general Careers Service pages about funding. Although these are written with postgraduate study in mind, the section about trusts and charities may help you to fund a wide range of activities. For example, the Careers Service subscribes to the online searchable database: Alternative guide to postgraduate funding.  You can also access the latest edition of the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding (PDF, 3.54 MB), or come in and use the reference copy in person. This provides details of how to find and apply to various sources of funding. There may be organisations in there who would be interested in funding someone for education or career-related travel, volunteering or work experience.

There are a number of useful books and websites mentioned on the pages above. In addition to these, the Careers Service has a reference copy of the Guide to educational grants, available from the Resources Help Desk. This is a comprehensive list of sources of non-statutory help for people in education who are in financial need, up to and including first degree level. It contains information on over 1,400 national & local grant-making trusts, which together distribute more than £54 million in grants. Browse our online resources for ‘funding’ to see full details of all relevant resources, both print and online.

Further help and support 

If you are able to come into the Careers Service in person then Information Specialists and Welcome Desk staff can show you the funding guides and talk you through the resources above in person. You can then also make an appointment to talk to a Careers Adviser about funding applications. For example, you may want to draft some applications and bring these in to get feedback.

Megan Wiley, Information Specialist

Student Volunteering Week

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Not many people know this, but Student Volunteering Week has been a nationally recognised week for the last 13 years. It’s only been the last two years that UBU Volunteering has decided to get involved, largely thanks to a push from the NUS and our own desire to recognise all the amazing things students do whilst studying in Bristol.

This year’s events focused on random acts of kindness, supporting each other and developing yourself: three major components of being a well-rounded and successful volunteer. We kicked off the week with a Good Deed pledge event, seeing 70 students make pledges from volunteering in primary schools to ringing their grandparents more often.  All pledges were rewarded with mystery prizes designed to be shared to spread even more good cheer.  Photos from the event can be seen on our Facebook page.

This was followed by UBU Volunteering’s biggest ever fundraiser,  ‘Bristol’s Got Talent’ – a talent show coordinated by the UBU Volunteering Exec and staff team to raise money for UBU Volunteering’s annual Spring Dinner Dance for local isolated older people.  Acts included Pole Fitness, judo, Dance Society, cheerleading and many more. Together we raised over £500, which means our Volunteering Executive can now move forward with planning the dinner dance and recruiting volunteers to support it.

The week’s events were rounded off with our first-ever second-term Volunteering Fair, showcasing 50 local organisations all looking for student volunteers to help support their causes. The fair was well-attended and almost everyone who came left with a pocket full of chocolate and a volunteering position to be proud of.

Don’t worry if you missed the events of Student Volunteering Week 2014; volunteering never stops and we have opportunities available to students all year round. All you need to do is login to our NEW Volunteer Hub, and you can search local volunteering and fundraising opportunities currently available. You can also keep track of your volunteering hours to help make completing the Bristol PLuS Award even easier.

The most important thing to remember when volunteering is to say ‘thank you!’ so I’d like to say a big ‘thank you!’ to: all those students who engaged with us during Student Volunteering Week; the Careers Service, for putting on some brilliant workshops (which can be used towards the PLuS Award); the volunteers who gave up their time to help us put on events during the week; and all the local charities and community groups who believe that University of Bristol students can make a positive difference to the city they live in.

Jemma Harford
Community Engagement Coordinator, UBU

You can find out more about how you can use volunteering toward the Bristol PLuS Award on the Careers Service website.

The best thing you can do at university

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Guest blog post from Imogen Palmer, Vice President Activities, UBU

I grew up in the countryside, where the biggest opportunities were writing the obituaries for the local paper and playing the young William Wordsworth in my hometown’s annual history walk. I was overwhelmed when I arrived at Bristol by the 200-plus societies and clubs it had to offer, and I went a bit overboard. I acted in a play but realised I didn’t like acting. I went to kick-boxing and decided I didn’t want to be a ninja. I was an editor for the student paper and found I didn’t want to be journalist. Doing UBTV, the student TV station made me realise I didn’t want to be a TV researcher.

The most common thing I hear undergraduates say is ‘I don’t know what I want to do’. Most of us dread the ‘post-uni’ question that family insist on asking every time they see us, but not knowing is no bad thing. I had no idea what I wanted to do when I arrived at uni and I’ve managed to narrow it down so far. I don’t know any other point in your life where you can try on this many different ‘lives’, so to speak, and figure out what really stokes your passion.

It’s not all about getting ‘transferable skills’ or plumping out your CV, even if that’s an added bonus. It’s about working out what you like and being able to make the most educated choice possible about which direction to go in, because there isn’t just one.

My involvement with activities led me to the firm conclusion that I love people and I love trying new things. Therefore, when the opportunity arose to campaign for a job that would involve enabling more people to try things, in the form of VP activities, I leapt at the chance.

And that’s not just for the first-years; it’s for the second-, third-, final-years and post-grads as well. Life doesn’t stop in the library. Go and seek adventure during UBU Showcase Month, try something new and see what happens. Remember: if you’re finding it too expensive to get involved with activities outside your course, you can apply to UBU’s fair access fund: ubu.org.uk/activities/committee_resources/funding/.

We’ve had great feedback from student groups so far about Showcase Month, with lots of people trying new things, from canoeing to cross-country running. Volunteering Week kicks off this week so get on it! May I particularly recommend ‘Bristol’s Got Talent’ on Monday 24th February and the Volunteering Fair on the 27th.

Bristol’s Got Talent: facebook.com/events/731175766900390/
Volunteering Fair:  facebook.com/events/750510671625775/
Full UBU Showcase listings: ubu.org.uk/events/

Imogen Palmer
Vice President Activities
University of Bristol Students’ Union

Some further info:

  • UBU Volunteering will soon be launching a new database where you’ll be able to sign up and join various volunteering projects. In the meantime, you can join the Volunteering Mailing List and follow UBU Volunteering on Facebook to be kept up to date with current opportunities:  ubu.org.uk/activities/volunteering/getinvolved/
  • Week commencing 24th Feb 2014 is Student Volunteering Week (SVW). SVW is a nationwide celebration of all things student volunteering! UBU Volunteering will be teaming up with Bristol Hub to put on a load of exciting volunteering events and competitions throughout the week. Find out what’s on online: ubu.org.uk/activities/volunteering/
  • As part of SVW, the Careers Service will be running the following event for students:

Careers in the Third Sector: How to sell volunteering on your CV – Tuesday 25th February, 3pm
This session is an opportunity to hear tips for accessing careers in the Third Sector, including useful resources and effective planning for your next steps.  There will also be an opportunity to talk with professionals who have successfully made the transition into this sector. Sign up here: careers.bristol.ac.uk/ViewEvent.chpx?id=206070

Introducing Lloyds Scholars

Lloyds Scholars, a programme launched in 2011 and run by Lloyds Banking Group, aims to help students from lower income households throughout their degree and beyond. As one of the first Scholars, I have experienced the benefits of the programme first hand and would encourage anyone who meets the criteria to apply.

Each year the programme accepts fifteen students per participating university, and there is stiff competition for places. Eight universities are now involved: Bristol was one of the first universities to be involved , alongside Sheffield, and has since been joined by Bath and Birmingham, Edinburgh, Oxford, UCL and Warwick. One of the best things about the programme is that it is not limited to students taking degrees directly related to banking: Bristol Scholars study a variety of courses such as Physics, Law, English and Music.

In addition to the entry criteria, Scholars must complete 100 hours of volunteering per year during their degree. Whilst this may seem difficult at first, it is easily achievable if you start early. Volunteering has also been hugely beneficial to the participants, getting them involved in causes which they may not have thought about before. Some examples in Bristol include Food Cycle (cooking for the homeless), Jolidays (taking young carers away for day-trips and weekends away) and the Innocence Project (helping victims of miscarriages of justice). Students have even started their own projects: one Bristol Scholar introduced the Clothes Line to Bristol, which aims to give disadvantaged people smart clothes for job interviews.

Scholars work hard and enjoy a whole host of benefits from Lloyds, including bursaries, performance-related bonuses for good grades, a number of awards and cash prizes at the end of their time at university. In addition to monetary benefits, Scholars also gain a mentor in the bank who will be able to offer advice and support throughout their degree and gain valuable transferable skills to improve employability. Perhaps the biggest benefits are the two ten-week paid internships Scholars can undertake during their summers. The bank tries hard to place you in the area you would like to work in, and also in your preferred location: many Scholars choose to work close to their home or university, but a significant number live and work in London (for those not in commuting distance accommodation is provided). During the second internship, individual line managers assess Scholars’ performance, which may result in a referral to the Graduate Leadership Programme.

Overall, the Lloyds Scholars Programme is truly unique and I feel lucky to be a part of it.

Becky H, Lloyds Scholar

Help – I’ve been forced to take a year out!

Help – I’ve been forced to take a year out!

It’s that time of year when many students receiving their degree results have to make a sudden change of plan.  We’re busy right now at the Careers Service seeing people who are rethinking what seemed like career certainties just a few months ago, either because they didn’t get the class of degree for which they’d hoped, or occasionally because they achieved a much higher degree result than expected and they hadn’t applied for any jobs.

Whichever position you find yourself in, it can be a daunting prospect to be graduating into months of completely unstructured time, but this doesn’t have to be a disaster.  Employers are very interested in how people cope with setbacks, as well as how they demonstrate resilience and move on, so the focus should be on treating the unexpected time out as one big potential learning experience.  It could even leave you with a stronger CV than the one with which you start your unplanned year out!

Try to maintain a sense of purpose

What employers will be looking for when you do start applying for graduate jobs is a sense of purpose: that you were able to set goals for yourself, plan ahead and structure your time.  It can be incredibly difficult to motivate yourself when you have empty days looming ahead of you after the bustle of university life, but it’s important to have targets both in the long term – the job you want – and in the short term.  What will you be doing each day to keep moving forward?  How will you organise your days?  It’s crucial to have something to aim towards so that you can maintain your motivation.  Staff at the Careers Service are happy to talk through your ideas and help you to plan ahead, and we are open throughout the summer if you would like to come in for a chat.

Get some work experience

A great use of a year out is to find work experience and sample some different jobs and organisational cultures, as this could help you to make much more informed career choices further down the line.  More work experience can also help to mitigate against the effect of a 2:2, as it can flesh out your CV and show that you are completely capable of doing the kind of work you want to do.  The media has done a great job of convincing people that there are no jobs out there, but we know from talking to employers that this isn’t true.  You will, however, need to be persistent to get your foot in the door.  You can start by looking at the vacancies advertised on the Careers Service web site, and there are several national newspapers that have excellent online job databases, such as the Guardian.

You will also need to make speculative approaches in person, by phone & email and in writing to employers that interest you.  To do this effectively, make sure that you have done your research before you make contact.  Read the company’s web site carefully and make sure that you are clear about the kind of person, skills and experience that they are looking for, as well as reading related publications and web sites to fill in the bigger picture of what is going on in the sector that interests you.  There is information on the Careers web site about how to make a good speculative application.

Finally, try to make use of any contacts that you have to find out about any work experience opportunities.  Talk to family and friends about who they know or get back in touch with any previous employers who could be useful to you.  You can also use the Careers Network of Bristol graduates who are all willing to answer questions about their work and career paths and, in some cases, may be able to offer work experience in their organisations.

Other options

Many students also consider volunteering opportunities, if finances permit, getting involved in a range of projects where you can develop and use skills that employers will value in your applications.  These can be local to your community or they could be an opportunity to travel abroad.  If you’ve always wanted to travel then this could be your ideal time to do it, as long as you can provide evidence of learning and development along the way by taking short-term work or getting involved in development projects.  However, don’t forget that applications for graduate schemes open in the autumn in the year prior to you starting work, and sometimes even earlier, so you will need access to a PC to submit yours on time.  You will also need to be available for interviews should your application be successful.  If you don’t get organised for this crucial period then you might be looking at even more unscheduled time out, so it will pay off to have a plan you can stick to.

Follow up and support

However you decide to use an unscheduled year out, do remember that you can continue to use the Careers Service for a further three years if you are a University of Bristol graduate.  We can provide advice, information and guidance in person, by telephone and also by email, so there is no need to panic if you are on the other side of the world and need someone to give you feedback on your CV!  Just remember to keep track of what you are learning from your experiences, and you should be a solid candidate for the jobs you start applying for in a few months’ time.  Good luck!

Dr Tracy Johnson, Careers Adviser