Let me just step onto my soapbox…
Volunteering is wonderful and rewarding. I know some of you will be saying, “Paige, I don’t have time to volunteer. I’m just too busy.” I also hear a lot of, “Volunteering is for the privileged I can’t afford to give my time away for free.” If you believe either of these, please just read this and give it a thought.
If you think volunteering takes up too much time…
It seems today I am busier than ever but I still find time to volunteer. Volunteering is not a full-time thing, on average one day a week is normal but it could be less or more. In the past I have helped out in-person for about two hours a week and did a little extra from home. Is two hours out of your week too much?*
*I just want to note, I know there are some really over-worked people out there. For example, are you a single parent who works full-time and is studying? Are you working on your Phd? If either is you, maybe not. But for the rest of you, just think about it.
If you think there are no volunteering opportunities available in your area…
There will be something, check your local newspaper, ask around. Even if it’s not directly related to the profession you are trying to get into you will still learn something.
If you think you won’t get anything out of the deal…
I started volunteering about 6 years ago. At the same time I was studying my Master’s of Information Management. I couldn’t find a job in the library industry so I got a job as a cleaner but kept up volunteering at the same time. In every job interview I have had since this time, my volunteering came up the interviewers were always interested in the skills I learned. In fact, one volunteer position led directly to the library job I currently hold. Now I work with volunteers on a daily basis.
My Volunteer Resume
I volunteered one day a week for a year the Cultural Collections of an academic library, while I was still doing my Masters in Information Management. This is were I ended up getting a job!
Currently, I volunteer 3 hours a week at Mainly Music, which is a group run for mother’s and toddlers that focuses on development through music for the kids and on social connections and spiritual and emotional well-being for the Mums. I get up in front of everyone and sing and dance and help run the sessions. I have been doing this for three years now and I think it would come in handy if I ever wanted to switch to children’s librarianship.
I also teach Sunday School!
For three years I was involved with an organisation that helped provided computer and information technology education and training individuals over 55. My oldest student was 97. The skills I practiced here help me with training now at my current job.
My Local Historical Society
I volunteered for two hours a week at my local historical society for about six months to help them build a new website and train them on how to update and maintain it themselves. This helped me form connections with the community members that helped later on in my special collections projects.
My very first volunteering job, age 12…
When I was twelve years old I went to work at my small community local library. I shelved books and helped out with the children’s story time. I did get in trouble for wearing a midriff top to work at the library and for reorganizing all the Goosebumps by series number instead of alphabetically by title! Luckily the head librarian was lovely and very forgiving. This volunteering experience stuck with me for life and was part of what inspired me to be a librarian.
As you can see, volunteering has meant a lot to me. If you’re still not sure, think about what is stopping you from volunteering. Lack of opportunities? Your only free hours are after 7pm? Don’t let it stop you.
- Do you have web skills that you could loan to a small non-for-profit in need in your community?
- Why not volunteer your time participating in a crowd-sourcing project?
- What about picking up rubbish with an environmental group on weekends?
- Why not volunteer as a once-off to help out at a conference?
To conclude here are some benefits of volunteering:
- Mental health benefits – feeling of accomplishment
- Social benefits – meeting new people
- Learn new skills
- Something on your resume to make you stand out from other job applicants
- Gain inspiration for what you would like to do with your life
- You can quit anytime you like, so what’s to lose?