Give something back to the community whilst learning new skills
Volunteering is the way to go for those of you who want to learn new skills, explore career options or to give something back to the world around you. You might think: "Why bother?" or "What’s in it for me?" Maybe you reckon there’s nowhere in your area looking for volunteers. Think again! In this section we talk about the reasons to volunteer and how to find more information on becoming a volunteer (in your area and worldwide).
- It can be very fulfilling. You may be on a course or in a job that you feel is not totally right for you. However, for financial or other reasons, you feel you have to stick with it. Volunteering can fill in the gap, so to speak, and allow you to do more of the types of things you love. Plus, it just plain feels good to organise or support a worthy cause or issue that helps others.
- It can be great craic and a personal learning experience. In fact, it can make you happier. One survey as part of National Volunteering Week found that 98% of volunteers said that volunteering made them ‘a happier person'.
- You get experience. This is particularly helpful if you want to get paid employment in the social/psychology sector. It is also helpful even if you want to work in a different sector completely, as employers like to see volunteering work. It shows that more things than just money motivates you.
- You get to see if the career you are trying to get into actually suits you. You may think you would love working with small children/animals, but after a few days you may be desperately praying to be inflicted with a broken leg/typhoid fever just so you can escape them!
- You get to make new friends. This sounds like one of those really annoying cliques, but it is actually true! The people you meet when volunteering will often be like-minded people, so are more likely to be the type of people you would want as friends.
- Volunteering can lead to paid employment. Many organisations have paid staff that started out as volunteers. Now obviously, you aren’t going to get paid work after you have been a volunteer for three months, but if you enjoy the volunteering and stick around, you never know where it might lead.
- It helps you to develop better social and interpersonal skills. According to the 2000 Canadian National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating 79% of volunteers said that volunteering helped them with skills such as understanding others better, motivating people and dealing with difficult situations. Volunteers have also reported better communication skills.
- You can always use your experience for school/college/career and it looks great on your CV.
- You will often learn new skills or discover hidden talents.
- Volunteering abroad allows you to learn about another culture or country by living there, instead of just getting the tourist’s view.
Check out our Ditch The Monkey video below on volunteering and contributing to the world around you
How do I get started?
- Choose something that you’re passionate about. Ask yourself what issue or social problem motivates you. If you’re interested in the type of work you’re doing, it will be much more rewarding.
- Try to take part in a volunteering activity that matches your skills and experiences. If you’re a whiz with computers for example, you could use your skills to help maintain the website of a charity or local community group.
- Ask about voluntary work options in your area and keep an eye out for notices looking for volunteers. Often, your local careers office will be able to tell you what’s available. You can also use the countrywide search function here.
- Activelink is also a great resource for highlighting voluntary opportunities and jobs in the not-for-profit/charity sector.
- Organisations like Focus Ireland, Barnardos, Suas, Amnesty International and the Simon Community regularly post on their websites and social media about volunteer positions.
- Check the time. Suss out how many hours of help you can offer per week or per month before you commit yourself. You don’t want to end up running around in circles, desperately trying to fit your volunteering into the rest of your life. So, work out beforehand how much time you have to spare.
- Be polite and professional at all times. Volunteering may not be paid, but you don’t want to throw your manners out the window either. Plus, you may want to use someone from your volunteering experience as a reference and that won’t go down well if you’re known as ‘the grumpy one’.
- Be reliable. Make sure you follow through on your commitments to the organisation and that you do whatever tasks you have committed to.
- Take advantage of any training courses offered to you. They’ll likely be free or at least at a reduced cost and will look great on your CV.
Volunteering is not just good for the soul; it’s also good for your CV and for college applications. It can really help to add a bit of shine to the ol’ curriculum vitae and get you noticed by employers and colleges. So if you are on the fence about volunteering anyhow, just consider what it could do for you.
- Volunteering experience looks particularly great on a personal statement. A personal statement is a small essay that you write as part of an application form for college. NUI Galway, UCAS (Universities & Colleges Admissions Service -British version of the CAO) and GTTR (Graduate Teacher Training Registry) all require you to write up one as part of your application. The personal statement details why a university should offer you a place on a course and it includes details of your skills, experiences and passions. Volunteering experience shows that you are motivated and willing to go for what you want.
- Volunteering can help you to pick a career path. If you volunteer, you’ll get a wide range of experiences and meet a lot of people. You’ll also get to see what it’s really like working in a certain field. So, for example, you might have thought that working with animals would be your dream job. Yet when you volunteer, you discover that you get really upset when very sick animals are brought into the veterinary surgery or that working with animals can be a messy and emotionally traumatic experience. All in all, volunteering offers you a very real way to find out if a given career is really right for you, without having to commit to anything.
- Volunteering on a regular basis makes you looked committed and dedicated, which bodes well on any CV or job application. One study by teenlife.com found that 92% of college admission sections would rather see a long-term (four-year in this case) commitment to a local charity rather than one month of service abroad. This study also showed that 72% of respondents would rather see a student dedicated to one cause rather than multiple causes.
- It can make you stand out from others on the same level as you. The sad truth is that the job market today is extremely competitive. So anything extra you can do to make yourself stand out from the rest will be worth it. A solid background of volunteering will definitely help to beef up your CV.
- You can learn new skills for FREE. Volunteering will allow you to develop your leadership, communication and team working skills. It can also help you to develop very specific skills; for example you may need to learn certain computer programmes in order to undertake certain volunteering tasks. You may even be sent on training courses as part of your work.