Case study

Volunteering and community projects officer — Nina Lazarski

Find out how Nina uses her own experience of volunteering to understand the issues of volunteering engagement

What degree did you study?

I graduated with a degree in psychology in 2000 and later went on to complete a PG Cert Student Engagement in HE, graduating in 2020.

How did you get your job?

I was employed as a welfare adviser at the University of Winchester for three years and saw this new post advertised. It was initially a fixed-term, full-time, externally-funded post, which has since become a permanent, part-time post.

My personal experiences of volunteering as a Samaritan, a fundraiser and DofE expedition supervisor helped me get the job as I was able to share experiences and insights of volunteering engagement at the interview.

What's a typical working day like?

I facilitate, enable and support student volunteering engagement with a range of charities. This might involve delivering information sessions to students, offering networking opportunities with organisations and also providing one-to-one information and advice.

I also deliver staff volunteering activities and collaborate with organisations to promote opportunities, events and projects. In addition, I work alongside colleagues in our wider department to deliver core services.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I value working with a sector that is making a difference for both people and the planet. Charities, community groups and not-for-profits all are so vital to society. I've met many inspiring people - both those delivering and those in receipt of services.

I also enjoy meeting with a range of students who are keen to get involved, supporting them to engage with, and develop through, meaningful learning experiences.

What are the challenges?

Managing the workload in part-time hours is a challenge, but there are ebbs and flows through the academic year. Semester time is especially busy for everyone in the team. Managing a range of work tasks and projects at the same time can also be challenging - although I love the variety.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My undergraduate degree in psychology has been valuable in helping me to understand and learn about differences in society and our shared experiences. It has also developed my awareness of the variety of ways in which we learn and thrive.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

My role has developed since the early days of being a new post at the university. To begin with, the emphasis was on establishing a volunteering service and very much being core to the recruitment of volunteers (involving hefty application packs). Now, we have a broader remit of facilitating engagement, offering information, support and advice. Also, increasingly I work with a wider (external) community focus.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

My postgraduate course was very much aligned with my role at the university. It was a positive experience and one which, after 20 years in the role, I found to be enlightening, re-energising and confirming in terms of approaches.

If you're looking to do further study to support your current career, choose a course that offers space to reflect on your practice, share discussions with other professionals and explore new ideas to enhance your work.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Get some volunteering experience. This helps you to understand the benefits of volunteering, but can also increase your awareness of issues that come with volunteering, e.g. time management, motivations, barriers. This awareness is so important if you wish to work with and support others to volunteer. It will also help you stand out in a job application or at an interview.
  • Develop your skills in listening and engaging with your community. You can achieve this either by volunteering or by taking time regularly to read/hear about activities that are taking place in the community, e.g. via community newsletters, radio, social media. This will build your research and networking skills.
  • Share your passion for engagement. In this job you need to be able to enthuse and engage others to take part and get involved. If you are passionate about social action and volunteering, then it will be conveyed to others and hopefully get them enthused too.

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