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Common Questions and Answers
The job marketing is becoming increasingly competitive, and many young people are looking to volunteer so that they can fluff out their CV. They know that volunteers are always in short supply, and it’s a sure way to gain some work related experience. But volunteering can be a wonderful, and fulfilling experience in and of itself. Volunteers shouldn’t view this opportunity just as stepping stone towards landing a paid job. They should cherish the occasion to give back to their community, and invest as much as they can in this activity. Otherwise, their whole volunteering experience is wasted.
Of course, volunteering can be used to make your CV look more impressive. But you can’t replace work experience with volunteer experience. The value of volunteer work goes beyond being familiar with a work environment. The two are quite different, and most employers know it.
Volunteering is much more than just a job. Not only do you have to invest a lot of time in it, and be flexible about your schedule, but it requires a greater emotional investment than an average job. Depending on the kind of work you’re going to choose to do, you’re going to have to communicate with a lot of people, from the those you are helping, to the ones you’re working with. The kind of bonds and relationships that develop among people who are working under such conditions are unlike any other. They can be much deeper, and much more rewarding than those formed in an office environment. Because you’re going to be faced with certain challenges and obstacles that are bound to bring you closer in a much more meaningful way.
Of course, working on your people skills is always a good idea, and any employer is going to be impressed if you can prove you can deal with a large number of people, in stressful situations. It makes you an outstanding candidate for any job you might be interested in. But this is the kind of skill that’s going to help you cope with a multitude of situations life’s going to throw at you. Don’t underestimate its value, by looking at it only as a means of making your resume stand out.
Many people volunteer for the networking opportunities this kind of work provides. And without a doubt, you can meet some truly wonderful and inspiring people while volunteering. But if you focus too much on these people just from an employment perspective, you’re not going to develop the kind of meaningful relationship you could otherwise have with them. If you don’t prove your worth then, why would they trust you later on?
And remember, these people are passionate about what they do. Otherwise, they wouldn’t give up their valuable time to do it. If you don’t share this passion, and you’re in it just for the perks, you won’t be able to establish a meaningful connection. Gaining a new lead on the job market does have its value, but building a friendship that can last a lifetime is incomparably more valuable.
And people who genuinely appreciate volunteer experience do so not because it means the candidate is accustomed to a work environment. It is the fact that the candidate is passionate about making changes in the world around them. They have beliefs they’re willing to work for. This is the kind of experience that’s relevant in the job market. Being committed to an ideal, and doing the best you can to see it in action.
This is perhaps the best asset you can gain from your experience. Commitment to an ideal, and the enthusiasm and capacity to surpass all sorts of obstacles and challenges, even when it’s hard to quantify the results of your work. And this is the sort of thing employers are going to expect to see when you mention your time spent as a volunteer.
And, while it’s true that this experience does provide you with a great learning opportunity, you have to be on point to benefit from it. Using the skills, you already have, you can find new, and creative ways to put them to use. And you can discover your related talents you were not aware of. But to do this, you have to be proactive. You have to put in a lot of effort, and focus on the tasks you have before you. If you just do the bare minimum all the time, you deny yourself an opportunity to let your unique set of abilities shine. And once you’re employed, you may find it difficult to explore all of your untapped potential, with deadlines looming above your head.
Statistics published by the United States Department of Labor show that the majority of volunteers are employed. So, what keeps people volunteering are not the employment opportunities. According to these statistics, most volunteers in the United States have steady jobs, and are in their mid to late 40s, so they wouldn’t need the experience. And this is not just a recent trend. It seems that throughout the years, it’s mostly people who are employed who choose to do volunteer work.
Volunteering can be one of the best ways to find meaning in your life; that goes beyond finding a well-paying job. It’s an opportunity to find out things about yourself that you wouldn’t otherwise discover. It’s a chance to test your limits and give back to the community. The work you do as a volunteer can have a genuine direct impact on the community you live in.
But most important of all, by focusing on this experience as a means of finding job opportunities, you’ll miss out on a truly life changing experience. You’re probably not going to be the one who ends world hunger, and solves all of humanity’s problems. But every little bit counts. If you don’t give it your all, you’re genuinely wasting time. Because if you don’t invest in this work, whatever it may be, you’re not helping at all.
So the value of volunteer work is much more profound than just adding a few lines of work experience to your resume. It can be the best opportunity to get to know yourself, to become aware of your strong points, and your limits. You should take this opportunity for what it is, and cherish it as such.
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