Thinking about volunteering selfishly

Volunteering is a great way to give back to the communities you are interested in, causes you love, or charities you care about. It’s also a great way to better yourself in the process.

Volunteering can be used as a tool build new skills, broaden your social or professional network, or simply to fill up your resume.

Volunteering for the Experience

I am just coming to the end of my volunteering term as the Membership Secretary for the Vancouver branch of CAMRA BC. When I signed up for this position, my selfish reasoning for it included the benefits of having an excuse to drink a lot of delicious craft beer.

Beer was only the start of it. I also was able to learn:

  • How to be a part of an executive,
  • How to manage a growing membership of over 1,000 people,
  • And many other aspects of how a volunteer advocacy group works.

Volunteering for the Social Network

I have also been an active volunteer for the International Association of Business Communicators of British Columbia. The association is the largest professional communicators group in BC and is a great way to learn more about the industry and meet the industry experts.

In my first year in the IABC/BC I volunteered in a number of different positions. Being a volunteer allowed me to:

  • Learn new skills such as writing styles for the web, as I volunteered to write copy for their new website,
  • Meet industry leaders and establish yourself as somebody who takes themselves seriously professionally,
  • And I also believe volunteering with this group had a strong impact in landing me my current job.

Volunteering for Resume Building

As I was finishing up my Public Relations program at BCIT, I wasn’t able to find a job that I was qualified for or an internship I was interested in.

So I emailed the Marketing Director for Vancouver Craft Beer Week, an organization I was very much interested in, and offered my labour as their marketing/public relations intern.

They were more than happy for me to do the undesirable tasks that need to be done. In exchange they all gave me great references. References that definitely helped me get my next job after VCBW was over.

Things to Consider When Choosing Where to Volunteer

Not all volunteering positions are great. In fact I think there are a lot of terrible positions out there if you don’t really care about the organization.

If I only cared about the beer in my CAMRA position, it definitely would not be worth it. With the amount of time I put into the membership role, I could have worked minimum wage somewhere and bought way more craft beer than I had for doing the position. It was worth it of course for the other reasons I mentioned above.

The most important things that you need to take into consideration are:

The benefits. These include the skills you will learn, knowledge you will gain, people you will meet, and anything else you can take away from it like a job or beer.

The costs. The biggest cost of volunteering can be the time. Make sure you aren’t committing to more time than you are able to, or are willing to put in.

And of course there are the altruistic aspects of volunteering. If you are volunteering for a children’s foundation or a charity that means something to you, it will be worth it for completely different reasons.

 

If you find this post to be useful, useless, or even distasteful I would love to hear from you in the comments.

Cheers,

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