Liz: Volunteering at Ready for Work's Pre-placement training

Liz Allen, IT Portfolio Director at Royal Mail, has been with the company for two and a half years. In July 2014, she spent a day volunteering at Ready for Work’s pre-placement training; advising clients who have a range of barriers to employment about applying for jobs.

"Royal Mail does a lot for the community; it has an influential brand and it’s good to see it being used in places you wouldn’t normally find it – like supporting people back into work. I wanted to get involved in the company’s community work and volunteering at the Ready for Work pre-placement training looked interesting."

The volunteering experience was very different to a normal day for Liz: "Most of my customer interactions are internal, I tend to use a lot of technical language and haven’t line managed entry-level staff for a long time. Also I don’t often witness the impact my work has on the community so volunteering meant that I could witness the impact first-hand while testing my management skills."

When she arrived at the pre-placement training day, Liz noticed that there was a wide range of people giving up their time - some had never line managed before while others, like Liz, were experienced senior managers. However experienced they were, most were concerned about how to build a rapport with the programme participants. It was an opportunity for everyone to develop their skills in a new environment.

"Before we met the client groups we were told more about them and were reassured about what they were expecting from us,’ Liz recalls. ‘It was a great session and we felt a lot more prepared. So when we started group activities we quickly felt comfortable and found lots of things to talk about with most of the clients."

After the group sessions, Liz had one-to-one sessions with two clients to improve their CV. One young women had no work experience and wanted to get into retail. The other lady was shy because English wasn’t her first language.

"I used open questions to tease out skills they could demonstrate to employers and used coaching skills to reassure them that taking time to find your words was fine.’ Liz says, ‘I felt I helped both women with their confidence and changed their perspective on what they could offer employers."

Since July, Liz has been encouraging all her junior colleagues and senior peers to get involved in Ready for Work and is looking into how she can do more for the programme: "Most people at work see me as being very driven and focused at work – they probably would not have expected me to volunteer like this, but I tell everyone that they should get involved –it’s a great way to spend half a day and if I can do it - anyone can!"

Find out how you can volunteer

Read more personal stories of participants of BITC's Ready for Work programme.