Volunteer your way to a Career

Hello my name is Gemma and I am on my second year of my History degree at Sheffield Hallam University. My main aim is to have a career in Archives and Museums as local and family history are two areas that I am very passionate about.


Two years ago I started volunteering at an archive in Gainsborough which gave me some experience and helped me gain communication skills and increase my confidence. I am now getting more and more involved in different things that are happening or taking place at the Gainsborough Heritage Centre and I have now gained a free t-shirt!

Gainsborough Heritage Centre

But, this summer of 2014, I have done even more volunteering, working on two heritage projects, one in Sheffield and one in Lincolnshire. The Lincolnshire Remembrance Project held a trip to the National Archives, which for me was an absolutely amazing experience and seeing some First World War Service Records and then being able to write up some research about that was great for me. In Sheffield, I am volunteering on the Our Broomhall Project where I am gaining a lot of skills and working on a lot of different parts of the project. One of the out and about days that I took part in was going up high buildings to take aerial photographs of Broomhall which was fantastic!

I also volunteered for my village History Society researching and writing up some work for an exhibition they had over the summer which was great as I could get involved in my own community as well as communities in other places. Last of all I promise, I am also volunteering at Weston Park Museum for Museum Sheffield working on the handling tables which helped with my communication skills as I describe and engage the public with different types of objects.

Even with all of these volunteering opportunities I am taking part in, in my own time I am researching local history and family history as projects. These projects are what I am working on out of my own interest but this is building up my confidence in terms of knowing where and what to research in an archive. For example over the summer I learnt how to use the Microfiche and Microfilm machines. I also have been a Student Ambassador on open days which really helped with my confidence when taking people on tours of the University.

But your career is not just about getting good experience and getting involved it’s about using every single available source of information or help out there. You can’t plan which job you are going to get because that’s impossible but you can find something that interests you and get as many skills and experience as possible. You can use the career and employability centre as much as possible as that is what they are there for! For example, opportunities I am looking at to increase my skills and experience are the Hallam Award, the Career Mentoring Scheme and also the Applied History module on my history course.

Finally, as a second year student I have already gained a lot of experience and there is still plenty of time to gain more. I have another year or so to get even more help from the careers service for example on interviews and CVs. My top tip of advice is to not leave anything to the last minute, be organised and make sure you use as many resources as you possibly can and don’t be afraid if you are unsure of where to start. Varied experience around a few ideas will help you understand what you enjoy and what you do not.