I would not be in my current role if I hadn't volunteered
Emma shares their journey from volunteer to Shop Manager at Retford.
When did you start volunteering?
I started volunteering in the Mind Shop Retford in April 2000, a few months after the shop had opened. I was only 21 and had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
I was actively looking for a job but had little work experience, so the jobcentre suggested I volunteer in a local charity shop to increase my skills and knowledge.
When I first started volunteering, I was absolutely petrified! I had very little confidence and struggled in social situations. I wasn't sure if I would enjoy the work and was very uncertain.
At first, I tried not to speak to anyone and just wanted to hide behind the steamer. However, this all changed quite quickly. I soon fell in love with the variety of tasks and wanted to learn everything.
The charity retail environment is ever changing and ever evolving. No 2 days are the same. There is so much to do that the day never drags. I loved that I could be creative and have an input that was going to make a difference.
What's the best thing about volunteering?
The thing I loved most about volunteering was undoubtedly the people. The staff and volunteers soon became a second family to me. Each person I worked with was so different and therefore I could learn something from everyone. We all shared the common goal of wanting to make our shop successful.
No matter what was going on in our personal lives, the shop would become our sanctuary and our safe space. The people I worked with inspired me, motivated me, and supported me.
A lot has changed over the 20+ years I've been with Mind, but the one thing that has remained constant is the network of support and dedication from the people I work with.
How has volunteering helped you in your current role?
Without a doubt, I would not be in my current role if I hadn't volunteered.
Volunteering not only increased my knowledge and skills, but also my confidence and self-worth. When I first volunteered, I completed a qualification in retail and customer service with the support of my Line Manager. About a year later I became Assistant Manager and then Shop Manager.
A couple of years later, I became a Retail Trainer. I was given the opportunity to support on the region and eventually on the division. When I first started, I was too scared to work on the till or even talk to a customer. And now I can quite happily host a meeting in a room full of people.
Mind has continually supported my personal development and every single day I learn something new. This all stemmed from volunteering. It gave me the confidence to challenge myself and I always I could ask for help if I didn't know something. I felt valued and felt a part of something.
I don't know where I would be if I hadn't taken that first step and volunteered, but I do know that I found a job that I absolutely love and I am very lucky to work with the most inspirational people every single day.
Is there anything you would say to someone who wanted to start volunteering at Mind?
Do it! Whether you want to make new friends, learn new skills, gain confidence or simply just help, volunteering has so many benefits.
Our shops quite simply cannot run without the help and support of our volunteers. Don't be too scared or nervous to ask about volunteering or to start volunteering. We need you and we value you!
Share your story with others
Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.