We know that students are busy, and the idea of fitting volunteering into their jam-packed lives may be a difficult one to convey.
But evidence shows that time spent volunteering as students offers multiple benefits, outside of the obvious community benefits.
Work Experience is often hard to source, and some students may feel placements lack responsibility or real-world experience, but volunteering opportunities can be easier to find for students and allow them to test-drive potential career industries without any commitment.
We’ve taken a look at some of the benefits and key take-aways when it comes to student volunteering:
- Students should volunteer in roles that are related to careers they are considering
Which makes sense – students are unlikely to want to give up their time to help causes that they’re not really interested in. So if they’re keen enough to volunteer their time, chances are the field may also offer suitable career opportunities.
For example, students who choose to volunteer in an aged care facility (and enjoy their experience) could consider a career as a carer or caring professional.
Students who volunteer for landcare would possibly be interested in careers where they can work outside, such as landscaping, agriculture, or even one of the environmental sciences.
Their time spent volunteering will give them real-world first-hand experience of the industry, and help either spark their interest or rule out unsuitable careers.
Unlike work experience, students can volunteer over many weeks or months, and build up a solid bank of experience in a field, giving them more certainty when choosing a career related to their volunteering.
- In the same way, students should volunteer for causes they feel passionate about
Regardless of the benefits, volunteering is still a big commitment and requires students to willingly give up their precious time, so it’s important that they feel strongly enough about the cause to want to volunteer because they want to help, rather than just for the bonus resume points.
If they’re passionate about it then they’ll find their experience more rewarding, be more likely to continue giving their time and learn more from their experience.
If students aren’t sure about where to volunteer, you could ask them questions like these ones to kick-start the process:
- What do you enjoy doing?
- What causes are important to you?
- Would you prefer to work with adults, children or animals?
- Do you mind getting your hands dirty?
- Would you like to be part of a team, or prefer to work alone?
- What skills do you have to bring to a volunteer role?
- Which skills would you like to develop?
- Volunteering builds skills for the workplace
Unlike school, sport, or other extra-curricular activities, volunteering placements are usually run more like workplaces. Volunteers are expected to turn up on time, take instructions from people who are not educators, and achieve set goals.
Students who volunteer also have the opportunity to gain communication and teamwork skills from a work-like environment. They will need to listen to instructions, potentially deal with clients/customers, and work well with other volunteers. This level of accountability is difficult to replicate within the more sheltered school environment.
Volunteering placements that take place on a regular basis could also lead to the student advancing in their role, and they could even become responsible for training new volunteers.
All of the skills they develop while volunteering will be useful in the workplace, and students can also benefit through including these skills on their resumes. Students often struggle to find solid evidence of skills to include on resumes, but employers usually regard volunteering experience very highly.
- They will develop their understanding of the wider world (outside of school)
Students who volunteer come face to face with existing problems and need within their community, and their time spent volunteering can help them develop an appreciation for how to meet those problems.
They will spend time in the community, and gain first-hand experience of the issues that affect people around them.
And because volunteering roles often incorporate multiple tasks students are able to ‘test-drive’ a variety of types of work to find which ones resonate with them most.
For example, students who volunteer with homeless charities may find they prefer to spend time talking to clients and supplying that much-needed human interaction for the homeless people they support. Or, they may find their strengths lie in sourcing food and goods to supply to their clients, or in caring for their animals, or in handling the social media for the volunteer group.
Students will learn that they community they live in requires multiple solutions and multiple types of people, sparking new interests and expanding their understanding of potential career paths.
- Students will also access networking opportunities
Our interconnected world relies on networks, and it’s not an accident that the most exclusive university scholarships now offer integrated networking opportunities as part of the package.
Students will be able to use their networks for everything from finding part-time work, through to finding internships, sourcing referrals, and finding new clients.
Their time spent volunteering will allow them to expand their networks and add new contacts who could one day be the key to finding their next position or opportunity.
The benefits aren’t limited to their career
There are also the benefits for student’s mental and physical wellbeing that have been correlated with volunteering through multiple studies. It could help them feel more confident, better about themselves, and that they have a place and are a part of something.
We often share volunteering opportunities with students, so if you’re looking for ideas head to studyworkgrow.com.au/volunteering/ to find the latest posts.