All Women's Talk

How to Go from Volunteer to Professional ...

By Sonya

You may not like the idea of ‘working for free’ for the sake of your career, but in today’s painful economic climate and lack of jobs, it’s perhaps time to look at volunteering a little differently. Volunteering can really help your career, and help you become the professional you want to be. See volunteering as both an opportunity and an enriching experience that tests your capabilities as well as altruism.

Volunteering is an umbrella term for doing work without being paid. It’s not just about helping out at your local community centres, taking care of the elderly or selling books at charity shops; volunteering can cover the charity spectrum to the corporate. Unpaid graduate internships are, in fact, a form of volunteering.

To become a professional:

If you’re a fresh graduate with huge enthusiasm but not a lot of work experience, volunteering is a viable option that will make your resume look fantastic after a few months of work.

You can pick up new skills at an internship, and most importantly discover how you operate in a work environment. If you’ve just been at college/university for 3-4 years, you may not know how the fast-paced “real world” flows. You’ll get to better grips how you work under real pressure and discover your strengths and weaknesses.

Volunteering at a company as an intern can give you invaluable insight into the corporate world which will put you in good stead for future job applications. Not only will you be able to show off the skills you gained, you’ll also show your willingness, ambition and drive for essentially “working for free”. Employers would see that and think, “this applicant did all of this work for free, imagine what they would do when paid!” Show how motivated you are to becoming a professional from being a volunteer.

It takes a certain type of person to work without getting an obvious form of reward. In other words, volunteers are incredibly inspirational and impressive. This is always going to give them a good reputation for any potential career changes. Volunteering can open your eyes to new things and teach you new skills outside of your home, university and job. Therefore your knowledge base is enriched with your extra-curricular activities (hence why these are always important to have on your /resumeCV). Use your extra skills to build relationships, respect and trust that is essential in the workplace.

So you can go from being a volunteer to a professional a lot easier than going straight from a student to a professional. Many sceptical people view internships or volunteering as “slave labour”. However, as long as you choose a good internship that isn’t demeaning, (i.e. one that makes you a tea and coffee slave), and take the attitude that you’ll be learning invaluable important skills, you have nothing to lose. Also, most volunteering schemes offer to pay for your transport and lunch. All in all, volunteering can help you figure out who you want to be whilst doing something meaningful, without the risk of getting fired!

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