Some preliminary considerations…
Photographer : Brande Jackson
Volunteering is a choice, made by you. It is also a commitment you make, to yourself, to the organisation at which you are volunteering and to the wider community.
When searching for a volunteer opportunity, it’s important that your choice not only serves your interests, but is also in the best interests of the other people affected. Therefore, before committing to a volunteer position, it’s important that you take the time to consider all of the expectations and obligations of the people involved, and whether or not you are able to meet these.Be practical about the commitment you make
Be practical about the extent of the volunteer commitment that you make.
Think carefully about how much time
you are able to, or willing to, commit to the job.
Do you wish to take on a volunteering position that is:
- long term or short term
- A one off event or a continuing obligation
- A daily/weekly/monthly or yearly commitment?
Be sure to make your availability clear to the organisation at which you are applying. You don’t want to make a commitment that you cannot keep.
You should also consider the logistics
of your volunteer arrangement. Make sure that the volunteer position is in a location that is easily accessible to you. If you have a car check out how long it will take for you to get there and that there is parking. If public transport is your only option make sure that your commitment is located on a regularly serviced train, bus or tram line.Volunteer in an area that interests you
Whether it be at university, in the workplace or in the community, people work more effectively and get the most out of their experience when they are doing something that they enjoy and which they are passionate about. This same logic applies to volunteering and so should be kept in mind when you are searching for a volunteer opportunity.
Before you begin your hunt, think about areas that are of interest to you, and the current events or issues that make you tick. Once you have identified these they can be used as the basis to select a volunteer organisation. Adopting this approach will make locating a volunteer-based organisation that is right for you, a much easier task.
However, it is important to realise that not every organisation that works in your area of interest, is the organisation that is right for you. There are several different viewpoints that can be taken on any one issue—some of which may not match your own. In order to avoid conflicts of interest, make sure that the organisation that you choose, holds values and aspirations that you agree with and that you can relate to.Think about the type of role that suits you
Before making a volunteer commitment, it is important to think about the type of volunteer role that you would enjoy and that you are capable of doing
. When making this assessment you should try to identify your own strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, and consider the type of job to which these would best be suited.
Following are some questions/considerations that may relevant to making this assessment.
What skills/experiences can you bring to the job?
- Do you prefer solitude or social interaction?
- Do you work better independently or as part of a team?
- Do you prefer working outdoors/indoors?
- Do you prefer being involved behind the scenes, for example, in the organisation of an event? Or would you rather be involved in the event itself?
- What level of responsibility would you like to take on or do you think you can handle?
When deciding where you would like to volunteer, you should always consider your personal skills and experiences and try to choose a volunteer opportunity in which these can best be used. Find yourself a volunteer position where your contribution will add the most value
, for the more you put in to your volunteer experience, the more you will get out of it.
Consider the type of formal education and training you have received, and how you could bring these skills to the job. Do you have training in:
- public relations
- human resources
- the law
- trade skills?
Think about any particular skills, talents and temperament that you possess and how these can be channelled to make your volunteer experience a more satisfying and productive experience. These may include:
Consider how you can benefit from the opportunity
- organisational skills
- public speaking skills
- language skills
- interpersonal communication skills.
As well as benefiting the organisation and the community, volunteering can provide many benefits for you
. If chosen carefully and dealt with wisely, a volunteering position can help to create pathways that lead to future job opportunities
. So when searching for a volunteer opportunity that is right for you, it is important that you consider the following elements before making your decision and jumping into any commitments.Experience
Volunteering provides you with a unique opportunity to gain skills and experience within your degree or work area. It is a great way to break the ‘no experience—can’t get a job—no experience’ cycle that we all seem to fall victim to at some stage.
The opportunity to participate in and observe the inner workings of an organisation will provide you with first hand experiences that when added to your knowledge base, will give you a greater and more in depth understanding of the area.Networking
One guarantee of any volunteer experience is that you are likely to meet lots of new people— and more significantly— people that share many of your ideas and interests. Some of the relationships you form may be valuable future job-seeking contacts. Résumé enhancement
All of the experience that you will gain from volunteering will be a great addition to your résumé. Volunteering demonstrates that you have initiative, social awareness and increased experience and knowledge. So whatever field you end up working in, making this type of commitment, is sure to enhance your employment options. Last but not least…
There are thousands of organisations out there, providing you with an endless source of volunteer opportunities , however it is important to realise that these organisations are not providing a professional placement service that matches your skills and preferences to the perfect volunteer position.
Volunteer-based organisations have to deal with lots of different people, in many different locations, with very different preferences and individual capacities every single day. Volunteer-based organisations are not mind readers, and so will not automatically know what type of volunteer opportunity it is that you are out to find. It is you
that has the best understanding of your own skills, strengths, limitations and expectations, and so it follows that when looking for a volunteer opportunity, you
- need to be open about what it is you can offer, and what you expect to get out of volunteering
- need to take the initiative to make the appropriate inquiries.
Once you let them know what you are after, most organisations will be happy to accommodate your needs, if it is within their capacity to do so.