Last weekend I had the wonderful opportunity to attend an evening benefitting the Canadian Women’s Foundation (http://www.cdnwomen.org/EN/index.html) called the Compassion with Fashion Show. Not only were there gorgeous outfits, it was also a “Lavish Dessert Reception”. Oh. My. Goodness. The desserts were EVERYWHERE and were absolutely mouth watering!
I only knew two of the women at my table, and I brought my mother along (it’s not hard to convince somebody to come when you say the magic words: “Chocolate and Fashion”). One of the ladies I knew, as I am currently working with her for another charitable event I am volunteering for, and the other was a woman I had just met and fired a couple of emails to.
My mom asked who the second lady was. I only knew her name, Roslyn Bern, to be honest. I sat right next to her and we had a blast all night talking about the food and outfits. At the end of the night she was introduced before making a speech.
Turns out Roslyn is the President of the Leacross Foundation (http://www.cdnwomen.org/EN/section04/2_4_4-board_of_directors.html) and is a very prominent and influential business woman, and I had been bumping elbows with her all night! Score!
You may think volunteering is just one of those feel-good activities that high school forces you to do for 40 hours to build some morale and character. Ladies and Gents, it is so so sooo very much more than that!
I hate to say it, but volunteering is not just good for the community, it’s actually amazing for your professional development too!
- Networking Opportunities: As you can see from my Sunday, I had a chance to network with some inspiring people at this charity event. So many different people come out to attend and support charitable events, including community leaders and local business owners. You don’t even have to attend weekly meetings or spend every waking moment volunteering. By going out and supporting local charities, you get to meet some really cool people!
While you’re still in university, I’d like to point out the absolute best networking opportunity you’ll ever have: Vice President of Sponsorship. I had no idea just how magical this position was until it was too late for me.
Your sole purpose is to contact businesses and sell your club as a valuable asset to them. In the end you end up with an 8 month-long-relationship with potential employers.
Every single VP Sponsorship I met graduated with a job, and about 2-3 other job offers on top of that one.
- Develop New Skills: When you take the time out of your day to volunteer, you open yourself to new experiences which will help you develop new skills.
Employers are looking for employees who have well rounded skills (Here’s a list of the top 10 things employers are looking for: http://bit.ly/9s3zm6).
When you are a part of a committee or are a chair of a committee, you learn teamwork, how to set up an event, how to set goals and how to manage/supervise a committee. As postgraduate students with minimal work experience, you should grab any possible experience you can!
Practice New Skills Freely: Not only do you get to learn these new skills, you can test them out with minimal fear of being reprimanded. You can even test out some of the things you’ve learned in class and teach them to your organization.
Since you’re not working in a private organization, you don’t need to fear the wrath of a manager around every corner. Don’t push the limits of this though. This is a learning experience, not time for you to be a clown. Learn what you can, and teach others what you may have learned. Let them take advantage of your knowledge.
- Resume and Experience: There are so many university students out there who have not worked a single day in their life. I’ve always wondered what the heck they put on their resume.
Volunteer work is a great way to beef up your resume if you have never worked. Put in all your student organizations and clubs you belong to. Try volunteering for organizations that reflect your studies and career aspirations. A good friend of mine in Political Science was a major part of Equal Voice (http://www.equalvoice.ca/) and worked very closely with politicians on the Hill. It was an absolute gold star on her resume (plus the networking opportunities were phenomenal). Needless to say, she got into her graduate program no problem and instantly found herself an amazing job.
- Satisfaction of Doing Good and Helping Others: I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel so good helping others. Seeing the smile on somebody’s face when you’ve helped them out, it really just puts a spring in your step.
If you want, you can look at this a little selfishly and think you’ll get good karma but you should really just step back and enjoy the moment, and everything you’ve done. There really is no feeling in the world to describe it.
There really is no excuse not to volunteer. There’s no competition like a career and there are so many positions available. So get yourself out there and do some good in your community and use it as a stepping stone for your future!