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Written By Megan Logan

Who?

Joanne Rowling, also known as J.K. Rowling, was born July 1965 in Gloucestershire and is recognised most famously for her record-breaking fantasy novel series Harry Potter.

What?

The first in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, sold over four hundred million copies worldwide and was in such high demand that the next two books appeared shortly after in 1997 and 1998 - The Chamber of Secrets and The Prisoner of Azkaban. Nineteen years on, she has finished all eight Harry Potter books and has moved on to writing adult books, including The Casual Vacancy.

Why?

One of the main reasons why J.K. Rowling is a huge inspiration to me is her journey before she became famous, turning her life from rags to riches. After separating from her partner and being left a single parent living off state benefits, Rowling thought there was no way out and was diagnosed with clinical depression after attempting suicide in her late 20’s. However, she later used this as a source of inspiration for the dementors in Harry Potter, which were a metaphorical representation for the thoughts in her head. J.K. Rowling was additionally rejected from twelve different publishing houses before she was given her big break by Barry Cunningham, although he advised her to get a ‘day job’ in case it didn't work out. She now holds numerous awards under her belt, including three Nestle Smartie book awards, alongside being nominated Britain’s most influential woman in 2010. Civil rights activist Jessica Mitford, who gave J.K. Rowling this award, said she was "incurably and instinctively rebellious, brave, adventurous, funny and irreverent’. Rowling took her failure amongst successes and projected them into stunning pieces of writing. She is now named one of the best-selling female authors, with a net worth of around $1 billion, showing that any dream is possible and no hurdle is too big to conquer.

Image source: http://bibliodaze.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/JK-Rowling-2.jpg

Written by Laura Makin

Voluntary experience has become an important section on the CV and having some exciting, attention-grabbing things on there can really make you stand out. The environmental sector is becoming increasingly popular with volunteers as it offers a huge variety of tasks, and experience like this can be that extra push to get you into competitive schemes and positions. It is no longer enough to simply be knowledgeable about it in the classroom, or to talk about how passionate you are. In reality, much of the work will be outside and hands on, so you need to be able to demonstrate your enthusiasm to do just this. Volunteering shows that you have taken your interest further and really immersed yourself in something you care about. But, if you are struggling for ideas, here are a few that might make you want to get your hands dirty.

The Wildlife Trusts

The Wildlife Trusts is the largest people-powered environmental organisation in the UK. Being made up of 47 individual trusts and looking after 2,300 nature reserves across the country, they present major opportunities for anyone who wants to become more involved in the wildlife in their local community. According to their website, their volunteers give an average of 16 days each per year, so it really would not have to take up much of your time. Activities could range from:

  • Gardening,

  • Species surveying

  • Dry stone walling

  • Hedge laying

  • Habitat management

  • Plant identification

  • GPS mapping

  • Running Wildlife Watch groups with young people

Therefore there is the potential to learn about species identification, biodiversity, ecology and conservation, making it perfect for anyone wishing to pursue a related career. However, there are also plenty of indoor opportunities as people with organisational, IT, administrative and financial skills are always needed too.

www.wildlifetrusts.org

The Conservation Volunteers

TCV work with thousands of volunteers across the UK. With them, you could take on activities in both urban and rural areas, taking part in things such as:

  • Planting trees and flower meadows

  • Building stiles

  • Clearing footpaths

  • Creating food growing projects.

They pride themselves on making it easy for you to volunteer regardless of your experience or time available. Not only this, they also offer employment and training services, helping people to gain new skills and qualifications. Their support can include functional skills in English, Maths and ICT, employability and personal development skills, study programs, traineeships and vocational skills training such as exercise and fitness, childcare, retail, conservation and horticulture. Therefore, TCV has a huge amount to offer and is definitely worth checking out. Not only could you be involved in projects that interest you and improve your local community, but you could gain some brilliant new skills to boost your CV. The website is easy to use and you can search by postcode to find opportunities near you.

www.tcv.org.uk

Community parks

Most local parks and countryside sites have active volunteer groups who take on a wide range of tasks. Many will be looking for volunteer rangers to work in the parks and help maintain them. This role might include:

  • Weeding

  • Tree planting

  • Litter picking

  • Creating wildlife habitats

  • Gardening

  • Wildlife surveying

If you like getting to grips with nature then it is certainly for you. Not only would you be helping maintain and improve green spaces in your local community, but you would be gaining an array of practical skills that can help you in the future. In particular, positions like these are perfect for those wanting a career in the environmental sector or biology. It demonstrates you are passionate about the environment beyond what you learn in a classroom and are taking it to a hands on level. You can find out about where these opportunities are on your local government website under information about parks and open spaces.

Local animal shelters

This has always been a popular way of volunteering and is undoubtedly rewarding for those who love animals. There are often a range of roles you can take on within shelters such as:

  • Dog walking

  • Cat cuddling

  • Home checking

  • Fundraising.

There is even the opportunity to foster an animal for those who are willing to make a much bigger commitment to their animal friends. However, even the smallest amount of time dedicated to a shelter displays compassion, enthusiasm and initiative, all qualities that any employer would want to see in their employees. But, of course, volunteering in a shelter is definitely beneficial for those who wish to work with animals in the future, such as in zoology or veterinary science.

Charity shops

Many major charities will have their own shops to raise money and they are always looking for people to help out in store. Some popular animal charities often seen in the high street are PDSA and Blue Cross but sometimes local organisations or shelters will have their own so see what you can find in your local area. The shops are a major source of income for the charities and by helping to run them you would be playing a role in raising that money. Not only that, it gives you valuable retail experience such as working behind a till, dealing with stock, and working with customers. Many positions will require this knowledge and being able to demonstrate it through voluntary work will give you a big tick for employers.

www.pdsa.org.uk/near-me

www.bluecross.org.uk/find-us

Volunteer abroad

Due to nature of the sector, volunteering with wildlife and conservation can potentially take you all over the world! This would unquestionably give your CV the 'wow' factor by showing the lengths you are willing to go to lend your help to a cause. There are many websites where you can search for projects like this. Working Abroad, Projects Abroad, Go Overseas, and International Volunteer HQ are just a few examples that offer opportunities in this sector. All these sites have a range of environment and conservation projects, including marine conservation for those who may be more interested in marine biology. There are also examples of volunteer stories to give you a sense of their experience and whether it might be for you. Conservation projects are available all over the world so there are a range of climates and surroundings you could be working in. Of course, volunteering abroad does mean that you will have to pay fees to be involved so this is something that needs to be considered. However, these sites do try to make them affordable and, if you are able to make the payment, it would most certainly pay off in the end with the experience and skills gained.

www.workingabroad.com

www.projects-abroad.co.uk</