Do I need to volunteer to get experience in a new field?

I’ve worked in accounts in a hotel chain for many years and am likely to be made redundant at the end of March. I want to get into something working with animals, but I’m not sure where to begin. Is volunteering the best way to get relevant experience? Is there anything I might be able to do volunteer-wise with all the uncertainty of the pandemic? I’m just not sure what is possible at the moment.

Pets, cats dogs and family


How fantastic you’d like to follow your passion and work with animals – the question is how to get there? The easiest job search is “same skills, same sector”, and during the pandemic a number of people have been choosing this route which is the ‘safest’ to find their next job, especially as it can take time to upskill and/or change sector.

The question to answer first is to work out your timescales. If you leave your company at the end of March, when do you need to be back in employment? The second question is to work out exactly what you’d like to get involved in when working with animals. Is it related to accounts and what you’ve done previously i.e. have you currently got this skillset or is it something you’ll need to acquire either wholly or in part? The safest place to acquire new skills is in your current company where they know you and trust you so between now and the end of March, are there a couple of skills that you can develop before you leave that would enhance your CV and help you to land a role in this new sector?

The most proactive way to find a job is through your network – do you have any 1st or 2nd degree connections who work with animals? Have you contacted them to see how they landed their job? Have you identified organisations you’d like to work for and strategically cross checked connections using LinkedIn to see if you know of anyone who works there? Which recruitment agencies specialise in working with animals?

Volunteering is a great way to get relevant experience by broadening your skillset, plugging skills gaps on your CV and giving something back. The current economic uncertainty has driven up demand for volunteers.

I’d recommend updating your CV and targeting organisations you have a keen interest in (both volunteering and/or paid) and have a look for jobs advertised through LinkedIn, Indeed, and other sites. Ask your network to keep an eye out for suitable openings. The pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty for people, so you’ll need a lot of resilience, but with the passion, my advice would be to keep at it.

Once you’ve been selected as a volunteer, try to get as involved in the organisation as you possibly can; tell people what your strengths are and what you like doing, but also tell them what skills you’re keen to develop so you can make the most of the experience. It’s a win-win experience!

Good luck!

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