How Volunteering Helps in Your Career Development

Global Ed

University years are one of the best, most formative years of a student’s life. It’s when you leave the security of your home, learn to become independent, discover yourself and make lifelong friends. It’s also a time when you start to think about, and work towards a career with a degree of seriousness.

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How volunteering helps your career?

One important step in that direction is meeting people and expanding your social circle beyond the classroom.  And one of the best ways of doing that is through volunteering. Yes, student volunteering is an effective way to socialise, contribute to the society and develop new life skills among many other benefits. Your primary at this point should be to get hands on experience, even if that comes with no remuneration. Also, volunteering is a great strategy, because few organizations will refuse someone working for free – this way you get what you want and they get someone to work without having to allocate more funds for the job. It’s a win-win really.

So narrow down the organizations where you’d get the best exposure and start contacting them to voluntary work (as long as it’s permissible and allows you time for your studies). Also, in these times of lock-down, many organizations may be looking for volunteering online, so do an online search to see if anything fits your skills and interest.

How volunteering helps your career? Find out!

Skill Gained Through Volunteering

Volunteering helps you develop a variety of skills that are industry-specific. These would include:

  • Cross-cultural communication
  • Heightened cultural awareness
  • Wider community-circle
  • Foreign language proficiency
  • Self-confidence
  • Be aware of global/political issue
  • Build new networks
  • Work ethics
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Problem solving ability
  • Quick in establishing rapport
  • Time management
  • Initiator
  • Self-reliant
  • Ability to convey ideas verbally
  • Assertive
  • Adaptable
  • Teamwork and leadership skills

According to findings from a study on student volunteering, it helps students develop skills that prove to be helpful in their future professional careers. The study also revealed that volunteering, when incorporated into students’ learning process, makes the learning experience more active, enjoyable and relevant.

Top Three Benefits of Volunteering as a Student

How does volunteer work benefit you? While the benefits of volunteering are numerous, here are a few specific ones that help students.

1. Strengthens your connection to the community

Volunteering is one way to build a strong social network. Depending on where you sign up for it, volunteering gives you the opportunity to meet new people, which results in the building of positive relationships, bonds of trust, cooperation and respect.

As a global ed student, this helps you express yourself freely, and feel less isolated in a new environment. Also, interacting with people beyond your classroom is an enriching experience that introduces you to people from all walks of life, as you learnt to communicate effectively.

2. Provides valuable job skills and career experience

What about volunteering for career development? As mentioned earlier, one way to get a hands-on experience in the career that interest you is through volunteering in the field you are interested in. Besides these specific job skills, volunteering also hones critical skills that are required in a workplace, such as teamwork, problem solving, project planning, task management, and communication.

The good news is that some organisations also give extensive training to volunteers before they take up the job. This equips you with the right skillsets to embark on your career.  It is also an opportunity where you can apply your classroom knowledge to practical scenarios.

According to Job outlook 2020– National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), there are twenty key attributes that employers look at in a student’s resume. Almost all the attributes are among the skills that are and can be acquired during volunteering. Problem solving, team work and work ethics are the top three attributes sought by an employer.

3. Leads to the happiness effect

Various studies have attributed volunteering as one of the measures to balance mental health. In fact, volunteering has been used as an intervention to reduce depression among adolescents. The BMC Public health published a study conducted on volunteers (who volunteered regularly) where participants experienced increase in mental health (8.5%), and decrease in depression (4.4%).

It leads to, what is popularly called, the “happiness effect” – where helping gives you a sense of fulfilment and happiness. This feeling triggers the release of a chemical called dopamine in the brain – and that has a positive effect on how you feel.

How to find voluntary work?

First things first – because of COVID many volunteering opportunities may now be online – so do a search to understand how organizations are making this happen now. Having said that, the opportunities are many, so try not to limit yourself to just one organisation. Be creative, look beyond the obvious and see this as an opportunity to explore and learn.

Some places you can look at include the following (only do this if it’s safe from a COVID perspective)

  • At your university: Understanding the importance of volunteering, most of the universities offer an opportunity to volunteer, whether it is on or off campus. It’s a good idea to get in touch with the volunteering desk to understand the options.
  • Local organisations: Whether it is an NGO or a private firm, you can seek volunteer opportunities from them which can be the local park department, local museum etc. Ask other students who may have done this before. Also, look online for listings in your area.
  • Local animal shelters: If you are an animal lover then you’d love to spend your time volunteering at animal shelter home. Find out such shelter in your area and sign up as a volunteer – again – this may not be the best time to offer your services here, but if you can find a way that’s safe, then explore this option.

In Australia, for instance, voluntary work is recognised as a valuable part of life. In fact, Australians spend about 700 million hours volunteering every year. So, if you Australia is your global ed destination, then you can be sure to find ample volunteering opportunities there.

To look for volunteer opportunities in Australia, you can start with (if you are an intentional student, then before starting check with your university if the particular job is permitted)

  • WIRES – This organisation rescues and looks after wildlife in NSW.
  • Wildlife Victoria – This organisation is raising money to distribute to shelters across Victoria.
  • WFF – This organisation works to conserve endangered species, protect endangered places.
  • SEEK Volunteer and GO Volunteer are also popular portals in Australia for finding volunteering opportunities.

Also, many universities offer volunteering opportunities. The Australian National University, for instance,  lists many volunteering opportunities on its site that range from mentoring new students to tutoring indigenous students.

When you decide to volunteer, it means that you have decided to take out time and energy. So ensure that you are making the best out of this opportunity.

Here are a few things to keep in mind before starting:

  • Ask questions – it’s the best way to learn
  • Understand what’s expected of you and deliver
  • Do not be afraid to look for a change if it doesn’t fit
  • Be yourself and give it your best

If you’ve recently started your global ed journey, then do remember to explore volunteering. It’ll give you more clarity on what you want to do, at present and in the future.

Find out also more about the best online internships.

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Global Ed


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