Limahl enrolled on the Citizens’ Advice Bureau’s voluntary advisor scheme, and now feels that the skills and experience he gained have helped him to find his current job:
“When I finished university, I realised that I wasn’t ready for a full-time job, but I wasn’t sure what to do. My mum actually suggested volunteering, but there are so many charities out there – where do you start? So when I came across the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, it seemed to encompass what I was looking for, a way of giving back to the community we live in.
I started with some casual work as a bit of a handyman, helping with porting, and admin work. I’d just moved to London, and the environment was so homely that I ended up spending more and more time there. It was the team that kept me there for so long, they are the kind of people you want to keep in contact with for the rest of your life.
Once I’d become a regular face, I decided to enrol in the 18-month advisory programme they offer. It was very structured training, and I was committed to just two days a week. They were really accommodating, and always happy to fit around my part-time work. The scheme isn’t just knowledge-based, around issues such as immigration, consumer rights, employment etc. It’s also about the personal aspects of being an advisor – what to expect and how customers might respond to you. It prepares you in a very 3D way.
Where the CAB really comes up trumps is in its support structure. As a volunteer you are dealing with people in stressful situations, so the support you are given is very important. At the CAB they recognise that people blossom at different stages, so you get to do it at your own pace. You don’t feel rushed or pressured, and that brings out the best in advisors.
It was an all-round fantastic experience, and that’s why I stayed with the CAB for four years. I feel that my experience there definitely contributed towards the job I have now. The training, exposure and transferable skills you gain through volunteering can really give you the edge in a competitive market.
I still volunteer, often going into local schools to talk to kids about university and their futures. Many of my friends volunteer too, for anything from mentoring schemes through to taking kids out to play football. It’s such an enjoyable experience, and there are volunteering opportunities out there to suit everyone.”