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This blogpost was based on the information provided at a recent Melbourne Minimalist Meetups event as part of our Expert Series on the topic of volunteering with Nicola Reiss . Nicola is the Volunteer Coordinator at Diaspora Action Australia.
The most obvious result of volunteering is that you get to help others. That’s a great thing in itself, but what do you get out of it? Besides it's altruistic benefits volunteering has plenty of tangible benefits. Here are five reason to volunteer that directly helps you.
1. Improved social life
Volunteer in a place in an area of your interest and meet other people who have similar interests. Not only is it nice to spend time with like minded people, it is good for you. Studies have shown that people who have a variety of different social circles are healthier and more satisfied with their life than people who have a smaller number of social circles.
2. Develop new skills and knowledge
Learning new skills and knowledge is beneficial for your mind and your life. Volunteering is a job and like with any other type of work you learn a considerable amount of new knowledge and skills. Plus, you may have the opportunity to do some really interesting work as a volunteer as most small non-profit organisations don’t have enough skilled volunteers for long. So, if you are a skilled volunteer you may get assigned really challenging and interesting projects to work on.
3. Improve community connections.
Do you want to know what’s happening with your local community? If so, volunteer at a small to medium sized local organisation. You will make local connections and become more informed on the issues that concern you and your neighbours.
4. Improve your resume.
As you learn new things and make new connections, update your resume with what you have learnt as a volunteer. Even putting down your experience as having had worked in a professional environment is a boon to your resume that can help you get your next paying job.
5. Opportunity to test different job industries (for free!)
Volunteering can be a good way to experience the working reality of different industries before you commit to it in a more permanent way.
Being multifaceted humans, we have many interest that pull us in different directions, which makes it hard to pick a career to get started with. By getting some real experience in those fields before you make a decision can help you make a more informed decision later on.
I have had mostly positive volunteering experiences, but that’s not always the case for everyone. To get the most out of your volunteering experience here are five things to consider before you say yes to the volunteering position.
1. Have time to spare.
How much commitment are you willing to make? Think about your time and availability. Don’t clutter your time or the organisations time by agreeing to do something that you don't have enough time for.
2. Do your research before you sign up.
Make sure your interests are fully aligned with the organisation’s vision and mission. It’s important that the organisation is a good personal and cultural fit for you.
3. Check for adequate training and support.
Does the organisation have an induction program for new volunteers? If they don’t it’s sign of rocky roads ahead. To do the job properly you need to be inducted properly into your position. Also, make sure that you are notified of any potential health and safety issues. For example, when I volunteered as a Community Visitor at the Office of the Public Advocate I had three whole days of training before I could get started as trainee Community Visitor.
4. Know what the actual work involves.
Is your job interesting enough? Don’t take on a position that is boring and repetitive just to have volunteer experience. If the work is not meaningful to you and you are not getting something out of the experience you won’t be able give your best and get the most out of a volunteering experience.
Get a detailed position description before taking on your volunteering position and make sure you ask plenty of questions during the interview.
5. Check if it is a nice place to work.
Are other volunteers and staff happy to be there? Do they have good working relationship with each other and the paid staff? Are the other volunteers the type of people you would enjoy being around? Try to get some inside knowledge before you sign up. When you’re there for the interview come in a little bit earlies and chat with other volunteers and ask them questions.
Hope this post has inspired you to look at volunteering with a fresh perspective and give it a go. Volunteering helped me make a better decision when it came to choosing my new career, and I am sure it can help you if you give it a go.
As always with love and simplicity,