Volunteering gains us experience in different environments. We can also get an inside view on how things work in a new sector or industry.
But besides the obvious, other benefits of volunteering include:
- having fun and meeting new people
- developing leadership and management skills
- retraining for a new career
- improving health and well-being
- acquiring vocational qualifications
- improving CV
- references and recommendations
- gaining industry related experience
- developing existing skills
So when recently questioned about volunteering, I first considered a couple of things. 1) what I gained from volunteering, and 2) as a team leader, what attributes I most admired in volunteers.
My own experience of volunteering
The first opportunity I had of working with people was as a volunteer. As a youth worker I shadowed a remarkable man by the name of Peter Brown, at a popular youth provision in South East London.
Shadowing Peter gave me invaluable insights into working with people. It also helped me identify my ability to work with others in a supportive and developmental capacity.
Like others, unknown to me, was that volunteering would shape my future. I’ve since volunteered in a variety of contexts including, counselling, coaching, photography, and pastoral work.
Attributes I admired in volunteers
Among others, the things I’ve most admired in the volunteers I’ve led are as follows:
A desire to learn and grow
One of the qualities I admire is having a desire to learn, grow and develop new skills. One young man would often ask questions about the way we did things in order to further his understanding.
He would also make a habit of asking for feedback, guidance and suggestions on how to improve. A commitment to use every experience as a learning opportunity is appealing to a team leader or employer.
A willingness to take initiative
Leadership isn’t easy. And anyone who’s led will know this all too well. As such, the people in my team who showed initiative were much appreciated because they lightened the load.
In stepping up to the plate when needed, they gave me the freedom to focus my energies where I was most effective. Though I’m sure I didn’t acknowledge this enough, I’d try my best to affirm their contributions often.
A desire to make a difference
Volunteering provides an opportunity to make a difference. The youth leaders in my team who caught this value made more of an impact than those who looked at volunteering as simply, ‘giving up their time’.
The difference between the two groups; the first recognised that their time and energy was an investment into the lives of the young people they supported on a weekly basis. Their volunteering served a greater purpose.
So why volunteering?
Put simply, volunteering offers you the chance to develop the types of skills that employers want. Also, by volunteering, like me and countless others, you’ll get clearer on your passions and what you’re naturally good at.
Over to you
Where might you be able to offer your time and energy to volunteering? What are your passions, and where would you like to make a contribution? How could volunteering help you to develop new skills?
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