Most people that I know with a portfolio career have unpaid work as part of that portfolio. I certainly do. I have offered free mentoring to people for many years. I have chaired my local community association for 8 years and for the past 3 years I have been a trustee for Disability Sport Yorkshire. These activities have always been a vital part of my portfolio career. Indeed one of the joys for me of having this career pattern has been that it has been easier to take on these roles than if I had one full time job. And portfolio career people continually tell me that this is one of the huge pluses of this career pattern.

The Institute for Volunteering Research estimates that:

  • 2 million people volunteer at least once a month in the UK
  • and 23.1 million volunteer at least once a year.

Research over time has shown that the more volunteering a person does and the more groups they are involved with the higher will be the level of their general well-being. Volunteering is also appearing as an indicator in measures of national well-being in countries seeking to move beyond the single blunt instrument of increasing GDP. See

In Durham, in the UK, , some voluntary organisations and GP practices are exploring the potential of complementing medical prescribing with volunteering for patients who might benefit from that combination. A Cabinet Office and DWP report estimated that the well-being benefits produced by the volunteering element were the financial equivalent of over £13,000 per person.

So it is good to reflect on how you feel about volunteering, the skills and talents you will be able to offer, the amount of time you are able to offer and which organisation might benefit most from your contributing.

Because of the work that I have been doing on retirement recentlly ( I have been keeping up to date with how many people are doing voluntary work and at what ages. In the livehappier learning programme I outline how important it is to identify one’s innate strengths. You could sign up at the livehappier site (its free to use thanks to Aviva) and use the activities described there to discover your innate strenghts. You need to exercise the Work module. The activities will help you to:

  • Understand that there are 2 types of work – paid and unpaid.
  • Discover just what work you love to do– by using your innate strengths.
  • Develop your innate strengths and pay much less attention to your weaknesses.
  • It will teach you what it is like to be ‘in the zone’, going with the flow.
  • You will discover your 7 main life achievements so far.
  • You will be able to analyse your paid and unpaid work to see if you are putting your innate strengths to work.

Although these activites have a retirement focus they work just as well for any time of your life. Indeed, we have a similar activity in our book.

A fascinating post from Nesta  discusses just how much voluntary work can now be carried out from the desktop at home.

It would be very good to hear your stories of what voluntary work you do and what you gain from it in addition to thr benefits to  the groups or people that you work.

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