Before being employed as a Student Life Writer, I had no job history, only volunteer experiences: shelving books, editing web content, teaching kids to play chess with a musketeer’s sense of chivalry.
Without these experiences, I probably wouldn’t have made it into UBC or landed my job here at the UBC Life Blog. I genuinely cared about what I was doing.
Although volunteering often offers less (monetary) compensation than a part-time job, it isn’t a waste of time.
3 reasons to motivate you to start, return to, or keep on volunteering
1. Discover, develop, and expand on new skills
Volunteering opportunities can let you explore new skill sets. They often don’t require previous experience, so you can choose initiatives that interest you and build on skills that you’ve always felt drawn to learning (and apply as transferable skills in a future job).
2. Pursue your passions
Rather than just padding your personal profiles and résumés, look for opportunities that resonate with your values, interests, and passions. Something that makes you feel alive when you’re doing it!
Volunteering allows you to try new things and find out where your passions lie without the arguably larger commitment of a job. You may not know what you care about until you try it.
3. Immerse yourself in a community and network
Volunteering is seldom a solitary act. You get to work closely with your supervisors and peers. If you’re consistently volunteering, your grit shows, and the people with whom you work will be more likely to offer to be your reference in the future—or even refer you to a job (most jobs are unlisted and filled internally via networking).
Volunteering also gets you out there and maximizes your engagement in new communities. You could meet like-minded individuals who may become resources, mentors, or even friends.
For the past academic year, I was a floor representative in my House Council, and contributed to events for other residents in my building. I connected with (and, in some cases, befriended) individuals in my house to whom I’d otherwise never really have the chance or reason to talk. (Now in my second year, I’m a House President—also a volunteering role.)
3 things to keep in mind
1. Focus on quality
It’s often not about how many volunteering roles you held, but how long you invested in each. Staying in a role demonstrates your dedication.
Do your research. There are volunteer positions that are, in fact, scams. Look into the organization and read reviews before you sign up. Is it credible? What will you be doing, exactly?
2. Remember that you’re there to give, not to receive
If there’s an honorarium, think of it as a bonus; if there’s a certificate or some swag items, see them as variants of your “Keep up your good work” encouragement. Don’t volunteer for the sake of getting free stuff and benefits to suit your ulterior motives.
3. Know the opportunity costs
Getting involved can be an important part of the university experience, so make sure you find volunteer opportunities that you can balance with your coursework.
If you feel like you have too many commitments (or that you’re sacrificing too much of your study time), reconsider your priorities and, if necessary, put volunteering on hold. You can always volunteer, but you can’t always get re-admitted into UBC.
Some great volunteering opportunities
- Zap your creative side and write content for The Ubyssey and CiTR 101.9 FM/Discorder Magazine
- Get cooking! Roll up your sleeves and boost campus sustainability with UBC Sprouts
- Spread knowledge about the natural world at The Beaty Biodiversity Museum
- Channel your inner Demeter and support agriculture initiatives with UBC Farm and UBC Botanical Garden
- Help out at the library with Out on the Shelves: Vancouver's Only LGBT2QIA+ Library
- And more!
Some catalogues and directories
- CareersOnline (Filter by "Volunteer" under "Opportunities" on the side menu.)
- City of Vancouver
Volunteering is an act of contributing without expecting things in return. Don’t see it as just a stepping stone or résumé slot—it’s a way to show gratitude and give back.
Stay open to new experiences, and leave a mark in your time here at UBC.
Be on the look-out for involvement fairs staggered through the year including the Volunteer Recruitment Fair happening on September 25! Why be a musketeer when you can be a volunteer?