How volunteering helped land a dream job

Nick Kira volunteered in the charity’s engagement and communications department for four months until the New Year. His placement was part of his recovery journey following a bleed on his brain in summer 2021. In his blog, Nick writes about his experience.

Finally, after a year of looking – a real slog – I’ve landed a job. A good job. One that I actually wanted, as opposed to one that just had my job title (copywriter) at the top.

And I’d say my volunteering role with the Royal Free Charity had a large part to play in this, for which I’m ever so grateful.

It was a kind of happy accident that led to me volunteering for the charity. I knew of them through my sister, who works there. I’d also not long been treated – and particularly well looked after – at Barnet Hospital, one of three hospitals that make up the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

I was recovering from what I described as a medical mishap: out of the blue, back in June, I had a bleed on the brain. It was the team at Barnet Hospital who diagnosed this and who quickly got me to a specialist unit at Queen Square Neurological Hospital.

This is why I had some time free – I was told that it would take up to 12 weeks to recover and I would be affected both physically and mentally. My concentration and memory were shot and, as a result, my confidence took a knock – particularly in my ability to write (essential for my job). I’m a copywriter by trade – that’s someone who writes for marketing purposes: that can be the wording on newspaper adverts, billboards, or emails, for example.

I approached the charity directly, to see if – rather than taking up a hospital-based position – I could work in their communications team. I knew I’d get something out of it – building up my confidence again – and I hoped that the charity would too: I had experience of working within the charity sector so figured that could come in handy.

Luckily the comms team needed an extra pair of hands, so I found myself on board. And right from the get-go I found myself in the thick of things. The charity was smack bang in the middle of a major fundraising appeal, called Breaking Point.

To give a little context, it takes months of planning for a project like this: assets are needed across a range of platforms including for outdoor adverts, roller banners, posters, social media channels, direct mail – the list goes on.

For me this was a good opportunity, as it allowed me to get stuck in straight away – at no point was I left twiddling my thumbs. I was first tasked with coming up with copy for posters that would be displayed in London Underground stations and on telephone kiosks as part of the Breaking Point appeal.

I moved on to writing web and social media copy for new fundraising events that supporters can sign up to, including Go Free and Ramble Free. After that, I undertook an audit of the website content – to check for grammar, typos, broken links, and outdated contact info – before moving on to what become the mainstay of my work: researching and writing stories about the charity’s volunteers.

These stories are collected to highlight the amazing work volunteers do in support of the Royal Free London and to maybe encourage others to come on board. I enjoyed interviewing them, over umpteen cappuccinos, then whipping their stories into shape.

All of this boosted my confidence in my own ability once more, aided my concentration, and – I hope – took a tiny bit of pressure off the communications team as they delivered the fundraising appeal.

It’s this confidence that I took into recent job interviews, having genuine bits of recent work to talk about, and which ultimately landed me the job I’ve just started.

I also have to thank all of my communications team colleagues who made me feel welcome – including me in team meetings, lunch conversations, and giving me plenty of work to do – and helped me settle in.

If anyone asked me, I’d certainly recommend volunteering to gain invaluable experience – it definitely worked for me.

Lead image: volunteer Nick in a meeting with staff from the charity.