“You volunteer for an organization?”
“Why would you take up something that does not pay you?”
“Why are you offering your time, skills and knowledge for free?”
It is not uncommon for people to wonder and throw these questions at me when I talk about my volunteering roles and share my experience of volunteering for different organizations. But contributing to the society and helping communities is often a win-win situation for both the volunteer and the organization that benefits from his/her time, skills and expertise. Volunteering, in fact, is a smart career tool and can act as a great catalyst in shaping your career trajectory. And here’s how helping others can help you develop personally and professionally:
Develop new skills through more hands-on experience: Volunteering helps you learn new skills and get better prepared for your professional life. Be it developing your social skills as you interact with various stakeholders or improving your problem-solving abilities as you translate what you learn in the classroom through a more hands-on and
practical experience or learning new things and skills that might help you discover a new side to your personality- volunteering can be a great stepping stone to gain new experiences as you prepare yourself to enter the workplace. In fact, most of the organizations that are volunteer led provide volunteers the training and development required to perform the task. Thus, a great opportunity to diversify your skill set.
Network with people from across industries: Volunteering provides you a great platform to network with people from different professional and cultural backgrounds. You not only meet interesting people but volunteering helps you meet like-minded people who share similar interests thus, helping you create a community or a support group outside of your college or existing work environment. And the importance of networking in growing one’s career and gaining better insights into an industry is a well-known fact. In addition, you also develop the tact and sensitivity required to interact with a diverse community of stakeholders, a very valuable skill that one can use at the workplace.
Test out a career: Are you looking for a career change? But not sure or confident of the same? Then volunteering can help you make an informed decision. Say for e.g. you are keen on taking up a career in the nonprofit sector. But you are apprehensive and not confident about the change. You could probably explore volunteering for an organization in the sector. And this experience will help you gain a better understanding of the sector, the different job opportunities and roles, the cause you are passionate about and identify any skill gaps as you test the waters before you embark on your new career path.
Great way to boost your resume: Including your volunteer experience on your resume is a great way to differentiate your resume from the millions of applications a hiring manager receives for a position in this competitive world. While most of the applicants eligible for a potential job opportunity may possess the education, skills, and the professional experience, having a volunteering experience sets one’s resume apart and you will find yourself having a better edge over other applicants. Further, should you be looking for a job or be in between jobs, a volunteering experience always helps fill in the gaps in your resume. And for those who are looking to pursue a higher education, volunteering experience in the potential field of study will not only improve your profile but also your chances of securing a scholarship as a lot of organizations and universities offering financial aid give importance to volunteer work and community service.
Be part of some great impact work: Volunteering and seeing how your work creates a life-changing impact in the lives of the people or communities you are working with is extremely rewarding. You indeed play a significant role in fueling the change you are passionate about. And what more you inspire others to embark on this journey.
Having worked and volunteered in the development sector for over five years, I have personally seen the ways in which I have developed both professionally and personally. And I can say for sure that it has been an enriching experience as I gained new skills, built relationships and a support system for life.
About the Author:
Sharda is a development sector professional who has worked in areas as diverse as urban planning, governance, gender empowerment and social enterprise. She is passionate about using the digital space for empowering the society and improving citizen participation at varied levels. She strongly believes in the power of education and the ways in which it can act as a catalyst in empowering communities. It is this belief that has been instrumental in her choice of working within the education domain.