The why’s and how’s of volunteering.
Let’s be real. Being a uni student is hard work. There’s assignment deadlines, group meetings, exams… as well as trying to find time to make money, see our friends and get enough sleep (thank goodness for coffee).
If you’re anything like me, you might be wondering whether volunteering is worth your time. By my second year of uni, most of my friends were volunteering… but with a busy schedule myself, I wasn’t sure about giving up my time to work for free.
Two years later and I’ve been loving the many volunteer opportunities I’ve been involved in, from one-off events to professional internships. It all started with a relatively low-key, monthly commitment to run a daytime activity with disadvantaged kids but once I saw how rewarding volunteering could be, I couldn’t stop.
1 // Why should I volunteer?
As we know, to a land the job you want after graduation you need more than just a degree.
Volunteering gives you an opportunity to practice the skills you’ve been learning at uni, build connections and put real experiences on your resume that prove you know what you’re doing.
Plus, volunteering comes with perks… like making some new friends or if you’re lucky, getting a free ticket to a show or a bite to eat!
The best part is – as students we aren’t expected to know it all. We’re there to learn which means you don’t have the pressure of getting it perfect the first time.
If you’re nervous about life after university like me, why not volunteer a couple of hours a week with a company you like? It’s a great way to build your confidence, practice the skills you’ve learnt at uni and find out if there are still skills you need to scratch up on before you graduate.
Aside from that, volunteering also helps you build connections and grow your network. You might not always get to do jobs that you love 100% of the time, but you will get to talk to people in the industry and you never know where that could lead in the future.
2 // How much time do I need to commit?
Once I realised how beneficial volunteering could be, I started to wonder how I could fit it into my timetable. While some of my friends can dedicate every Thursday night to a cause, my schedule is always changing so that just wasn’t practical for me.
After doing my research, I found there were so many opportunities out there to suit different people. You could volunteer at several one-off events throughout the year, apply for an internship where you work once a week or find a program that only requires their volunteers once a fortnight/month.
The main thing to remember is that it’s called a commitment for a reason. While volunteering won’t be your highest priority, Volunteer Co-ordinators always tell me about how challenging it is when volunteers simply don’t show up.
So be honest with yourself, if you don’t have time to volunteer this semester, focus on doing it in your break or next year instead!
3 // Where should I volunteer?
At the end of the day, where you should volunteer depends on what you’re wanting to get out of it. Are you looking for an opportunity to test your skills? Or are you looking to support a cause and give back to the community?
Think about your passions and your motivation behind volunteering. For example, if you’re looking to work in events, sign up to help at some! Or if you want to make a difference, find an organisation that supports causes you believe in.
Look for opportunities online through sites like SEEK or Facebook and don’t forget that most universities have programs you can be involved with (these ones are particularly good since they know you’re a busy uni student).
4 // What should I expect?
It’s important to be realistic when signing up to volunteer.
Let’s be honest – it’s unlikely you’re going to land your dream job from a volunteer gig. And only a lucky few end up with a paid role somewhere down the track. But it is an awesome opportunity to test and refine your skills, connect with people working in the industry and contribute to something great in our community.
At the end of the day, we know that volunteering isn’t going to be the top priority as you get through uni. But keep in mind – even doing a volunteer gig here and there can help you diversify your resume, practice your skills, make networks and of course… to have fun!
This week’s Career Hacks was written by one of our awesome genYOU interns – Sarah Chlonta.