By Kati Mhone
In general terms, volunteering is the practice of people working on behalf of others or a particular cause without payment for their time and services. Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity, intended to promote good or improve human quality of life. However, people also volunteer for their own skill development, to meet others, to make contacts for possible employment, to have fun, and for a variety of other reasons.
Contrary to the common misconception, volunteering is not limited to working for non-profit organisations-you can look for voluntary position in any industry and company of interest!
Volunteering is a fantastic way to gain experience in the world of work and boost your employability. You will learn valuable skills that are beneficial for your career development as well as personal growth as an individual.
Benefits of volunteering:
- You start building your professional network which will prove to be invaluable for your career development.
- Working gives you a feeling of achievement and boosts your self confidence
- You gain experience in the world of work and learn essential skills in business communication and professional conduct.
- By volunteering you demonstrate proactivity and enthusiasm which makes you a desirable candidate for any vacancy you are applying for in the future
- As a result of well done work in your volunteer position you will get good references to accompany your job applications.
- You may be able to find a mentor in the company you are volunteering in. A mentor is experienced in the field you want to build your career in and he or she can teach, guide and support you to achieve your goals.
- You become an expert in job hunting and learn different methods of finding work. After all, the same rules apply to looking for volunteer work and paid work!
- Sometimes volunteers get a job offer from the company they have been volunteering for. However, learning new skills and gaining experience in a professional environment can be a desired outcome itself
Things to consider
* What is it that you want to gain from volunteering? What are you interested in? What are you passionate about?
Do you want to explore different kind of occupations and industries to be able to make your career choice? Is your goal to gain work experience and improve your employability in the field you are studying for? By matching your interests with the company, you are approaching you will make volunteering a winwin situation where you will get the experience you need while the company benefits from your inputs.
* Part-time or full-time? If you have already finished your studies and are looking for paid work I recommend you consider volunteering especially if you don’t have previous work experience. In this case you may wish to volunteer part-time so that you still have enough time to look for paid work. If you are a student you can volunteer during school holidays or perhaps few hours every week, whichever schedule suits you best.
* Some companies are willing to pay travel costs and lunch for their volunteers while others don’t. This can be discussed with the company but be prepared to pay your expenses.
Steps to take
* Make a list of companies you want to contact. Internet is a great tool for this purpose. Also, don’t forget to check with your current network for any opportunities. Many people think that volunteering positions are advertised in the media although most of the time this is not the case. Therefore, you must brainstorm all possible avenues and get creative.
* Make sure your CV is updated and up to standard. Ensure there are no spelling mistakes and that the layout of your CV looks neat and professional. List your education, short courses and any previous paid or unpaid work you may have undertaken. Describe briefly what your duties were and what skills and competencies you demonstrated in the job.
* Write a motivational letter (“cover letter”) to the employer explaining why you are interested in volunteering in that particular company and what skills of yours the company may benefit from.
*Call the companies and find the contact details of the person who you should address your CV and motivational letter to. Alternatively, you can visit the company and leave your documents for their consideration. Remember to follow-up with all applications!