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The Gap Year Blog

Making the most of your volunteer experience for your career

6 Feb 2019 16:50 PM
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Photo Credit: Frontier Tenerife

Edited with Permission by Frontier

 

By now, you must have heard many times how useful and eye-opening experience volunteering is. This is all true. Obviously, it also depends on your own attitude and what expectations you set yourself while volunteering, but the general rule is as long as you keep an open mind, you are guaranteed an adventure that will benefit you a lifetime.

To make sure you will actually make the most out of your unbelievable volunteering opportunity, whether is wildlife volunteering in Costa Rica, teaching English in Tanzania or volunteering at a local charity shop, here are some advice how to best utilise those experiences.

 

Desired goals

Before starting your volunteering journey, ask yourself what you are hoping to get out of this experience. It can be something as simple as more work experience, or wanting to help in conservation work, but it is helpful to think what the main reason is for you to do this. This way you’ll have a better understanding of the skills you want to focus on developing on the job, and eventually, that will aid you to gain more from the experience. Likewise, having goals or skills you wish to work on will make it easier to incorporate the whole experience to your CV.

New locations

If possible, consider volunteering somewhere outside of your comfort zone. There’s nothing wrong volunteering at a charity in your home town, you will still learn valuable new skills from retail and marketing world which are more than likely going to help you in the future. But in the current global climate, an increasing number of employers are looking for people who are willing to travel for work or move to a new location to start the job. Volunteering abroad demonstrates that you are ready to take that step.

Photo Credit: Frontier Madagascar

Open mind

When you begin volunteering, it is crucial to keep your mind open to new cultures and ways, especially if you are volunteering in a completely new country to you. You might end up learning skills you weren’t planning on learning, or didn’t even know you could acquire, but that’s the beauty of volunteering. Being aware that things do not necessarily work in the same than back home and adjusting to that is the key to a successful volunteering time. This will also showcase that you are a very accommodating person which a skill that can be easily applied to any job, anywhere in the world.

Volunteer within your field

If you are already in work life, studying in a university, or just have your life figured out and therefore know what you want to do in the future, choosing a place to volunteer where you can pick up skills applicable to your future career is a worthwhile option. Are you studying marine biology? Consider volunteer at a marine research project! Are you a budding teacher? Get more teaching experience by teaching English abroad! Want to work in retail? Walk in to a charity shop and ask to help out there. This way you will gain work experience in your future field and can effortlessly add these experiences and skills to your resume for your future, dream employer to see. But don’t worry if do not have any clue what you desire to do. Volunteering in a field you don’t know much about can be a great way to find your true calling.

Photo Credit: Frontier Belize

Get a range of experience

While you are volunteering, there might come a time when you are asked to do something that doesn’t necessarily relate to your field and you might not be sure how to do it. Do it anyways! That is the best way to broaden your horizon and learn something new. Having a variety of skills on your CV, and overall in your life, is only a plus. Accomplishing a range of task while volunteering provides you great, practical examples to prove you actually have those skills and know how to apply them in different scenarios.

Contacts

You will, no doubt, be introduced to many people, most likely likeminded ones, when volunteering. These friendships you form can turn out to be valuable connections when navigating your way through working life. After finishing your volunteering job, make sure to keep in contact with the people you met there. Add them on Facebook and LinkedIn, and you will have great connections, and most importantly, friends, for the rest of your life.  

Photo Credit: Frontier Fiji

Writing your CV after volunteering

Always include your volunteering experiences to your resume. Even though volunteering is not paid, it is still work experience that should be mentioned to your possible employers. If you have paid work experience, that’s great, but volunteering shows that you were getting the work experience you were looking for while contributing to the local community or the environment. This is something many employers can appreciate.

Add a volunteering section to resume where you can list all our volunteering jobs. This can become a useful and impressive section, particularly, if you are volunteering a lot. Write down all the main tasks you were accomplishing underneath the job you listed on your CV. You can also demonstrate how these tasks allowed you to further develop some skills, or how they taught you new abilities.

You should have a separate skills section on your CV that includes all the skills you have. These could be more abstract skills like, an ability to adjust quickly to new work environments, or more concreate ones, like a proficiency to use a computer program or a certificate to prove your qualification as a diver. However, be prepared to establish how you learned those skills, or how you would use a specific skill in a certain scenario. This is especially useful in a job interview when you are asked about your list of skills.

 

Whatever type of volunteering you will end up doing in the future, you are guaranteed to gain convenient skills for your career, but more importantly, you are to gain unforgettable experiences and friends that will enrich the rest of your life.

By Tiia Karkkainen - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!