If you have skills you'd like to develop or improve, volunteering is a great way to do it and to help out people in your community. Volunteering should involve a genuine desire to help others, but this doesn't mean that the experience can't provide some very tangible benefits to you as well.
Here are some reasons why you may want to become a volunteer...
To develop competencies
- attain transferable career skills
- try out different skills
- exercise leadership, problem-solving, creativity
Volunteering is a great way to develop new skills. For some jobs, formal education or training may not be required but employers will want you to possess certain skills. Volunteering is a way to develop skills that you can transfer to the occupation of your choice. Volunteer positions can often involve a large degree of responsibility, if that's what you're looking for. This will allow you to exercise leadership, develop problem-solving skills and be creative.
To enhance personal development
- gain confidence, self-esteem
- fulfill a need to achieve
- meet new people
Whether you're learning new skills or developing skills you already have, volunteering provides the opportunity for you to gain confidence and self-esteem. Volunteering gives you a chance to share your knowledge and expertise with others. It can be very rewarding and fulfilling to know that all the training and education received has more value than simply putting food on your table (not to say that this isn't a valid reason in itself for developing your skills and knowledge base!). It allows you to get involved in your community and to make an impact on the lives of those in need. Volunteering will give you the chance to learn more about the community, society and environment in which you live. You can meet new people; this is good in its own right, and it also allows you to establish some important networking contacts you might use to find a paying job or as references.
To obtain knowledge of work environments
- explore careers
- acquire sense of career direction
- determine if interest is temporary or long-lasting
- make new contacts to locate job possibilities
Volunteering allows you to explore career options. If you aren't completely sure that a certain occupation is the one for you, volunteering gives you a chance to learn more about it before you make a commitment. Like informational interviewing or job shadowing, volunteering provides you with a chance to research the career alternatives open to you. It's a way to gain valuable career-related experience. Some occupations will require that you possess a particular certificate or degree, but employers will also want you to have experience. So even if you have the skills and education you need, volunteering can offer you the chance to apply these skills in a "real-world" environment and provide the practical experience many employers look for.
What are Employers looking for in Job Applicants?
- ability to communicate
- intelligence (this doesn't necessarily mean high marks)
- initiative, competitiveness, high-energy level
- self-knowledge, sense of personal/professional direction
- ability to handle conflict, work under stress
- attention to detail
- ability to set and achieve goals
- willingness to accept responsibility - leadership
Using Volunteer Work to Find a Job
If you're planning to use volunteer work to help get paid employment, finding the best volunteer position is only part of the process. There are a few other things you should do to make sure that you get the most out of your volunteer work and help your own career options while helping others:
- Interview for your volunteer position as you would for any paid position.
- Request a "job description".
- Ask about the training opportunities available through the agency you're volunteering with. They may help you get training that you can use in your chosen career.
- Treat your volunteer assignment as seriously as you would any paid job. Attend any training or orientation sessions recommended by the agency.
- Be punctual, dress appropriately, complete your assigned tasks promptly, and act in a professional manner. Follow the rules and guidelines of the organization.
- Ask for a periodic review of your work.
- Have your supervisor keep records on your service. This can be used later when you apply for paid work by recording your experience, training, and progress in your volunteer work.
- Develop your own portfolio: record training that you received, supervisors, letters of reference, addresses, phone numbers, etc.
- One of the most valuable aspects of volunteering is the contacts you can develop. Use all opportunities to create a network of contacts throughout your community that can help you in your job hunting and career planning.
- When you're ready to make the transition to paid work, let others know about it.
- When you prepare resumés and cover letters for your job search, be sure to emphasize your volunteer experience and the skills you developed. Take the time to analyse closely the skills you developed and the training you received while in the volunteer position.