3 things I learned from my Social Impact Voluntary Placement
Posted on: 19 February 2019
I wanted to do my best and for that to happen I assumed the work I produced had to be flawless. I was so wrong.
Hey, I’m Lydia and I work as a Project Support Officer for Winchester Hub, a branch of Student Hubs. During my undergraduate degree, I chose to take part in two placements on the Social Impact Voluntary Placement Scheme, mainly because I was keen to skill-up and wanted better insight into the way the voluntary sector operated.
After that experience, I thought I would give you a run-down of the 3 big lessons I took away from taking part in the Social Impact Voluntary Placement, being mindful of the role, the projects I was managing and being a participant of the annual scheme.
Lesson 1: Working in the social impact sector is incredibly varied and dynamic.
I soon came to realise that having a role in a charity or social enterprise is super diverse. So many cool opportunities and tasks pop up by surprise and in a small, dynamic team you can put yourself forward and get stuck in. This meant I got loads of additional skills and enjoyment out of my roles, which has certainly benefited me today. My job at Winchester Hub requires me to think on my feet, and the organisation gives me so many ways to experience bits of work beyond my job description.
Lesson 2: Your work isn’t going to be perfect first time round.
I approached my first placement with nervousness, I wanted to do my best and for that to happen I assumed the work I produced had to be flawless. I was so wrong, I soon came to realise that big pieces of work take time, energy, ups and downs to perfect, alongside the support and collaboration from others. Rather than trying to be perfect I now try to be honest and realistic – even the most important and intimidating people make mistakes, you’ve just got to own them and learn from them. This was invaluable when entering the workplace, the appreciation of what others can bring to my work has and will continue to help me.
Lesson 3: Your employer should always offer you effective and meaningful support.
Student Hubs were great at giving me the support when I delved into a placement. You get a day of training in relevant skills, including an insight into the sector to prepare you for your role. Throughout the placement, staff checked in to see how things were going and were on hand continuously if I had any concerns. They also found ways to work around what I was willing to offer, one year I worked part-time and the other I worked remotely. Luckily I still work for the organisation, but it definitely set a benchmark for the importance of support and what I should expect in the future.
I took part in two very different (but very eye-opening) placements. One was with PBS4, a social enterprise in Southampton who help support individuals with learning disabilities. The other was with We Make Change, a remote-working international charity that run an online platform to connect individuals working on the same issues. Both gave me heaps of responsibility and ultimately shaped the way I approach my job today.
So good luck for any future-placement-applicants! I hope that you learn some important lessons from whatever you choose to do, I can certainly confirm that I did and it has had a HUGE benefit on the work I do today.