Volunteering and Career Development

June 5, 2020

Volunteering is a great way to engage with and to advance the causes you care about. It can also play a role in turning your interests and passions into a career. With this in mind, you might also want to look into volunteer opportunities in addition to researching and applying for jobs and internships. 

Some of the ways volunteering can help your career development include: 

Defining interests and goals 
If you are not sure what you would like to do in the future, volunteering can be a great way to gain first-hand experience about what it is like to work in a particular field. It can also give you a chance to try different tasks and to learn more about the types of work and work environments which would be the best fit for you. 

Skills development
Volunteering can be an excellent way to learn new skills and to further improve existing ones. It also gives you a chance to apply knowledge you have gained in classrooms in a real-life setting. 

Joining a group or an organization as a volunteer can be a great way to connect with people who share your interests. Volunteering can also help you tap into the hidden job market and learn about vacancies before they are publicly advertised.  It is also a common practice to ask your volunteer supervisor to provide a reference.

Adding experience to your CV/resume and cover letter 
Especially if you don’t have a lot of previous work experience, or if you would like to transition to a new field, volunteering can be a great way to get your foot in the door and to show organizations that you have some practical experience relevant to the position you are applying for. 

To consider before volunteering

It is important to remember that despite your best intentions, volunteering can also end up causing more harm than good. Some things you want to keep in mind before you sign up to volunteer include

  1. Are you committed to the cause long-term, or are you only seeking short-term personal gains?
  2. Is volunteering something that allows the organization to do/achieve something they couldn’t otherwise, or are volunteers depriving less privileged people from paid positions?
  3. What is the organization’s relationship with the local community?
  4. How well are diverse voices and experiences represented in the organization?
  5. How can you as a volunteer ensure that you use your privilege to uplift and amplify less privileged voices and experiences instead of your own?