What’s not to love about volunteering? From participating in the 40 Hour Famine and Red Shield Door Knock Appeal in high school, to Sports Coaching, to helping out in an after school program, opportunities to volunteer are endless.
According to Volunteering Australia most people volunteer to help others and to benefit the community; personal satisfaction is also very high on the list of why people volunteer. But what about volunteering as part of your career development? Volunteering will help you stand out from the crowd and show your commitment and reliability. Here’s some ideas to get you thinking:
- First-hand experience
Hospitals and aged care facilities, schools, and community service organisations often offer volunteering opportunities. Take the chance to volunteer and find out for yourself what careers in these areas are all about. You’ll also be able to include the experience on your resume – good work!
- Show you know
Veterinary Science degree applications specifically require volunteer work and industry experience, e.g. Sydney University. Applicants need to show that they have extensive experience in animal care in a variety of settings. Volunteer with WIRES or your local wildlife park for training and unique experiences that will give you some key experience when applying for Vet Science courses.
- Get skilled
- Stand out from the crowd
Many charities and not-for-profits provide training and ongoing support for volunteers. For example, sports associations and clubs offer training in refereeing, coaching and officiating. In NSW, Rural Fire Service (RFS) values the participation of young people and offers a RFS Youth Program. For over-18s WIRES (NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc) train their volunteers to care for injured or sick wildlife; Rural Fire Service trains people in all aspects of fire support services. You’ll be developing vital skills in communications, managing yourself, and managing others plus formal benefiting from putting skills into regular practice.
Opportunities to build up experience in some work areas are very competitive. Paid roles in zoos are scarce however, applicants who have volunteered at the zoo or in other animal care organisations may find that they stand out from the crowd when it comes time to apply for a job.
- You’ve got experience
Young people often feel that their lack of work experience disadvantages them in the job market, but volunteering is an opportunity to learn on the job and do good at the same time. Both great additions to your resume and really good workplace experience to gain.
- Put your passion into action
Volunteering gives you a chance to roll your sleeves up and get involved with a cause. Charities use volunteers to assist in events, campaigns, and taking action. Getting involved through volunteering not only gives you the huge reward of making a difference but can lead to being in the right place when paid jobs are on offer. You’ll also build a network of connections in the organisation; another handy career development tool.
What about volunteering as part of your career development?
- When employers want more
Employers are seeking people who have done more than just turned up and achieved good grades. They are also on the look out for people who have contributed to others and developed communication and team skills. Volunteering might be just what you need to impress your future employer and get your career started.
- Keep your own dreams alive
Don’t give up on your own dreams. Local theatre companies, art galleries, and concert bands are looking for volunteers to join them in creating cultural and artistic experiences for the community. Your willingness and passion will be valued long after you’ve finished school.
- Volunteering checklist
Look out for programs that have clear expectations for volunteers, orientation, and ongoing support. Ask yourself some questions before you start: how much time do I have to give, when and where suits me, and over what period of time? What does the organisation need from you? You’ll be bringing your enthusiasm and passion so be ready to learn and adapt to new ways of doing things. By the way, as volunteers don’t get paid most people are volunteering for the love of helping their community. Many people continue to volunteer throughout their lives.
- Duke of Edinburgh
The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme is a fantastic program for young people that includes some ongoing volunteering. The service component of the award includes volunteering. A Duke of Edinburgh Award is a great achievement and is valued by employers too.
Volunteer for the right reasons. Yes volunteering can have some career benefits, but make sure your motives are right too. Look for volunteer roles that align with the things you genuinely care about and you’ll be off to a good start.
So, put your hand up, roll up your sleeves and lend a hand where you can. You’ll be gaining a lot as you give.