Volunteering is when you offer your time to help - just because! I'm a firm believer that everyone should find something they are passionate about and volunteer with an organization that supports that. Consider spending only an hour a week to do something beyond yourself.
Through my time volunteering since high school, I have personally grown and I have seen my colleagues also develop through their support of volunteer initiatives. These are five ways volunteering has prepared me for the workforce. Consider these when you're trying to determine if volunteering is for you!
As a full-time student, club co-president, employee and pet mom, I completely understand how one can feel overwhelmed with the amount of work they may have. Adding volunteer opportunities may seem daunting when you have lots going on, but I am a firm believer that these are the truly valuable experiences that are so worth-while.
Being able to balance multiple obligations plus doing something for someone else is an essential skill to learn. In the workforce it is so important to be able to manage multiple deadlines, projects, roles and responsibilities at the same time. This is a skill you can definitely develop through volunteering through your own personal endeavours, or by learning to balance the tasks within your volunteer opportunity.
In the animal rights activism community, we learned that it is important to keep a level head when discussing matters that we strongly believe in. This was one of the ways I began to mature through volunteering with UW Animal Rights Society. A huge step in reaching a level of maturity is to be in tune with your emotions and be able to discuss matters without insulting, demeaning or being rude to others.
Along with learning aspects of maturity comes being able to grow as an individual. Learning ways to adapt to unforeseen circumstances, planning for said issues and understanding which battles to pick and choose are essential in being a productive volunteer member. This can be taken into the workplace by the unexpected work that may come your way and by listening and understanding your coworkers.
Sometimes when you’re leading a team - as you may through volunteer opportunities - you have to make some difficult decisions. As co-president of UW Animal Rights Society, I have had to learn to step back from my personal beliefs and make decisions with my co-president for what’s best for the club. This means not always getting your way in order to benefit the whole group.
This can be seen in the workplaces when looking at your audience, working collaboratively or even having a conversation with your boss. At the end of the day, you will always be faced with some difficult decisions. It is your opportunity to take what you’ve learned from previous situations and apply them into your job. This doesn’t take away from the idea that your decision is difficult, but it is a way to prepare you for how you can articulate yourself during tough times.
Something that I think most people underestimate about volunteering is the amount of people you meet. Not only do you meet fellow volunteers, administrators and staff members, but also all of the people you interact with through your outreach or responsibilities. Don’t forget the random people you plug your organization to in your day-to-day life!
These connections are extremely important as they can become a valuable asset when job hunting. You might meet your future co-worker through a volunteer opportunity. Also, some organizations that offer volunteering may open up full time positions to experienced volunteer staff before hiring an external candidate. We also can’t forget how you learn networking skills that will then transfer into your position. You’ll learn how to talk to people, how to stay connected and what partnerships are mutually beneficial. Networking is essential not only in volunteering but also through employment.
All of these skills that you learn through your volunteering endeavours ultimately leads to personal growth. From my own experience, I was not that confident in sharing controversial opinions when I first became an activist. I was super concerned about not getting my facts right or hurting someone’s feelings. Now I know that I won’t have the answers to all of the questions, and not everyone will like me. This personal growth has allowed me to let go of things and focus on what really matters.
I challenge you to find something you love to do. Find a volunteer opportunity that falls in line with it! Love animals? Help a wildlife sanctuary. Love to bake? Join a local charities bake sale. Enjoy playing sports? Volunteer at a local kids club to teach them! At the end of the day, there’s something for everyone. I promise that volunteering will be fulfilling in ways you never thought it could be. Good luck!
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