January 23, 2015, by Jackie Thompson

Why I’m glad I’m doing the Advantage Award

By Mary Strickson, student blogger

I’m studying art history and during my spare time I volunteer with museum and gallery youth programmes, as well as writing art-based articles. I was interested in the Part-time Jobs, Vacation Jobs and Volunteering Jobs  module on the Advantage Award but I wasn’t sure if I would be eligible.

My volunteering involves completing projects in my own time and I was worried I couldn’t prove I had completed the 40 hours needed. I was reassured I only needed a signature from those I volunteer for to say I had done the hours required. Great news!

My hours quickly stacked up!

As my volunteering is self-led, how did I prove to the organisations that I had done 40 hours? I created my own timesheet, recording the hours I had done. The hours quickly stacked up and I realised I had actually completed over 80 hours in the last six months. Better still, I could see what I had achieved out of my volunteering and how much I had contributed. I assessed the skills I had gained and which skills need improving. It was great to reflect and evaluate what I had achieved so far. Evaluation skills will be useful for enhancing my career and CV writing in the future!

Achieving my goals

One assessment activity was to set and review your goals; mine was to improve my use of social media. At the end of the module I assessed how far I had achieved those goals. I created a public Twitter account and joined Instagram, spreading the word about my blogging and the museum’s arts events.

Giving me confidence

I asked the organisations I volunteer for to evaluate my strengths and weaknesses and confirm my hours. They gave excellent feedback which gave me a real boost in recognising what I had achieved through volunteering. I gave a presentation about my role and sharing with my Advantage Award group what I had learned. This improved my presentation skills as we received feedback on our performance. This advice will give me confidence if needing to present at an interview or in seminars in the future.

Improving my CV

Another assessment involved improving my CV.  When starting the module I submitted a long-winded and wordy CV written in minuscule font. By attending a workshop and CV appointment, I made it shorter and to the point using bullet points and then expanded the information in my covering letter. I learned that a CV could be up to two pages. I submitted my improved CV for assessment, annotating where and why I had improved it. It was an eye-opening exercise and I learned a great deal.

I’m glad I took part

From initially approaching this module tentatively, I am so glad I took part. It helped me recognise my skills and achievements from volunteering, honed my CV, improved my presentation skills, and set goals for what I want to achieve from volunteering in the future. And of course, I’m now a third of a way closer to achieving my Advantage Award!

Are you interested in finding out more about the Advantage Award? Watch the video and explore the 200 modules on offer – we’re sure you’ll find modules that will suit you!

Posted in International StudentsThe Nottingham Advantage AwardVolunteeringWork experience