What does it take to become a volunteer adviser?
Have you ever considered volunteering for Citizens Advice Bedford (CAB) but talked yourself out of it because you thought that you did not have the right skills for it?
In this post, I will be talking about what it means to volunteer for Citizens Advice and the skills that we look for in our volunteers.
First of all, being a volunteer for CAB means that you are ready to give up one of your most precious resources to help others and that is your time.
To many, it may come as a surprise that to become an adviser, or in fact, to volunteer for any of the roles that we offer, you do not need any previous experience.
From the minute a volunteer joins us, they are committing themselves to put in the effort to complete in-depth training, consisting of e-learnings, workshops and role play sessions over the course of 4 months to get up to speed with the skills and knowledge that they are required to have to be able to excel as a volunteer advisers.
Nonetheless, there are 3 requirements that are essential:
As a volunteer adviser the main part of your role is to interview clients to assess their needs and assist by providing them with help and advice to resolve their problems. This will be over different communication channels such as face to face, via the telephone or via email. As we assist clients with communication barriers and levels of education, it is important that our volunteer advisers are able to fully understand our clients as well as be able to express themselves in a polite and coherent manner.
It goes without say that an excellent level of IT skills is required to perform any of our volunteer roles. Every piece of advice that we provide is externally monitored for quality, therefore everything must be recorded on our online database system in a well written manner. Volunteers are also required to be able to easily navigate the internet, particularly our national website to retrieve information for our clients.
Willingness to help
Being willing to help others is at the heart of being a volunteer. This is why it’s important that all volunteers who join us, have a real passion for helping others. There is nothing more rewarding than being able to help others in times of need.
My experience of being a volunteer
I began volunteering for CAB in May 2018 to gain some experience in an office environment after graduating. One of the first things I witnessed as soon as I started volunteering for CAB was just how friendly people in the office were. As a volunteer, it can feel daunting being around others, however from the first day; I was welcomed into the team, instantly making me feel a sense of belonging.
I couldn’t believe just how much time was dedicated into training the new volunteers. At the time when I began, there was a dedicated Training and Recruitment manager who ensured that all new volunteers were given a training programme to complete, based on the role that they were delivering.
I joined as a social and media curator and my training consisted of lots of core e-learnings and a social media analysis. I received lots of constructive feedback on my work and I was given the opportunity to implement many of the changes that I had suggested.
My effort and skills did not go unnoticed and by August 2018 I was offered the opportunity to progress into a paid staff position. This role really taught me a lot; I was able to help people from all different walks of life and it really taught me how to communicate effectively and most importantly how to prioritise my workload.
8 months later, I was promoted as a Recruitment Coordinator. This was such an exciting opportunity for me. It’s a brand new role which enables me to use my creativity and the communication skills that I have acquired and put them into practice. What I really enjoy about this role is that I am able to manage my own time and 80% of it is spent talking to people, whether it be volunteers who have applied for the role, delivering presentations or liaising with partner organisations.
To this day, I am still in awe that what started off as a volunteer opportunity has led me to a full time job which I absolutely love.
If you’re looking to become a volunteer fill in our application form.
I can’t wait to hear from you!
Marianna Liberio – Recruitment Coordinator