Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why You Should Volunteer!

Quite a few years ago, I decided to change my career. The only problem was, I did not know what new career I wanted. I only knew that I was unhappy in the string of jobs that I had taken since graduating college 8 years prior.

I decided to make an appointment with my college alma mater's career center to speak to a career counselor about my options.  It turned out that as she spoke I realized that I wanted HER job!  Problem #2; my undergraduate degree and various full-time jobs did not qualify me to be a career counselor. So, I enrolled in a graduate program for Career Development.  End of story?  Did I then live happily ever after as a career counselor?  Well, then came problem #3; I realized that I was going to have this lovely degree but no experience in the field of career counseling to go with it. So, I called back my alma mater's career center and asked if I could volunteer with them.  Faster than I could say "free help" I was hired as a volunteer.

What did I do as a volunteer?  I observed counseling appointments and workshops, I helped coordinate a career night for student athletes, I called alumni to gather their employment status, I attended career fairs and I became familiar with the day-to-day duties of a career counselor.  In addition, I met experienced counselors and administrators who taught me a great deal, including the importance of becoming involved in professional associations in my field.  And, of course, I made great networking contacts.  Volunteering also showed prospective employers that it was very important to me to get related experience.  I made sure that happened, even though I was attending graduate school full-time and working in another job part-time.

No, I did not get paid at my volunteer job, and I realize that not every student can afford to work for free.  However, even if you volunteer for a few hours a week, you will gain the benefits.  As I always tell my students, it doesn't say on your resume how many hours a week you did a job.  As with any job, it's the quality of the work that you do, rather than the quantity of hours that you are there, that matters most.

So don't be afraid to volunteer!  For more help on how to  volunteer and where to find opportunities, call The Career Center to set up an appointment.  
Darlene Johnson, Senior Associate Director

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