Two hard-working charity shop employees have been speaking of their journey into full-time employment and how volunteering helped launch their retail careers. Emma Parks is manager of the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) shop in Aylsham Road, Norwich, and she is supported by sales assistant Tanya Davies.
Both have a close connection with the shop and are proud to be on the payroll, having previously given their time as volunteers. Mum-of-three Emma started helping out six years ago, after losing her previous job.
She chose to volunteer as a stop-gap while applying for other roles but was encouraged to throw her name into the hat when the deputy manager’s position became available. She duly landed the role and, after a couple of spells supporting other EACH shops as relief manager, she became manager in her own right last October.
“It’s been quite a journey and I feel very happy and proud to be in this position,” said the 41-year-old.
“I love it here and would definitely recommend volunteering to anyone, especially if they have designs on a career in retail. It can be a fantastic stepping stone and gives you an amazing sense of achievement, doing something to help others.
“EACH is an incredible charity and it’s nice being able to give something back. During my year of volunteering, I hadn’t thought about the possibility of joining the staff here. I just wanted to get out of the house, rather than sitting around doing nothing.
“I was only supposed to come in twice a week but ended up volunteering nearly every day, because I had such a positive feel for the shop and people. I was still applying for other jobs but was encouraged to go for the deputy manager’s job when it became available.
“I felt so appreciated and supported, which is still the case now, and the then-manager gave me the confidence to apply. Thankfully, I haven’t looked back since and I’ve learnt so much since becoming an employee. The training is great and I’m learning all the time.”
Tanya is similarly positive about volunteering at Aylsham Road, having done it for six years before becoming sales assistant in January.
“I love everything about our shop and am very proud of it,” said the mum of two, who also has three grandchildren.
“I still had a cleaning job when I started volunteering and even used to come in on days when I wasn’t supposed to be here. I liked the people so much and have always enjoyed being busy. EACH is a great cause and when the opportunity to apply for a job came up I grabbed it with both hands.
“I’ve gained lots of experience and learnt lots of new skills, so it’s definitely been a very positive thing for me. Volunteering was the starting point, though, and it’s definitely something I’d recommend to others, especially if they like the idea of working in retail.
“You learn so much on the job. I’d never used a cash register in my life and now it’s something I love doing, having a chat with customers. My advice to anyone interested in volunteering or retail would be to go for it.”