Is if for you?
“We feel ourselves that what we are doing is just a drop in the Ocean. But if that drop was not in the ocean, I think the oceans would be less because of that missing drop” – Mother Teresa.
The question that comes to mind is why do people volunteer their time. We are all so very busy, what with going to work and managing a home life, and many of us working such very long hours, it does stand to reason that the question is raised ‘Why do people volunteer that element that is so precious to us all – their time?’
Just imagine … the joy on a child’s face because someone took the time to be there; just imagine the children who have no home life, no warm embrace of love and kindness who welcome the time of someone who can just listen to them. Just imagine the students who are dreaming about running their own business but don’t know where to begin; just imagine the people who live in darkness, or are old and lonely, who have faced life threatening diseases or who have the need for a kind word, someone to read to them just imagine what you could do to help.
In many cases, some people put in more time in the volunteer “job” than in their “real” job. People volunteer in the community for a variety of reasons. One of the most popular is that they want to help a cause in which they personally hold a strong belief. Another is to use or even develop their skills and experience. There are many who volunteer because they have been personally affected or know someone who has been affected, by the cause the organisation supports.
They may wish to explore their own strengths, because their friend volunteered and many because they feel it may improve their job opportunities by showing their capabilities in less formal surroundings. Or it could even be because of strong religious beliefs and a sense of obligation. “I have so much. Let me give back a little”.
There are many reasons, everyone of them valid and should be considered seriously – in fact, voluntary organisations should be looking at hiring and recruiting people the same way businesses do. With our time at such a premium, volunteers today are looking for a lot more than just filling in the time – they want to feel needed, responsible and that they are actually making a difference.
So why would people who work such long hours choose to volunteer? The reasons could already been stated, but also perhaps to find an outlet and do something completely different from what they do in their “real” job. In fact, many people do ask to do something that is totally different to what they do in their chosen careers. Unfortunately, the minute one says they have a financial background, that is the area they usually get asked to help out in – maybe it is because financial people are so hard to come by.
Business people also volunteer to promote their businesses – this is not a negative, but more of a practical approach. The need to network with influential people only helps to develop their businesses while still doing something positive for the community. However, most of the business people who do volunteer their time do so because they wish to give back to the community.
Whatever the reason for volunteering, it is a good idea for your career, for yourself and for the people who need you, to roll up your sleeves and get in there to help.
What needs to be considered?
Okay – so here we are, we want to volunteer our time. Now what do we do? What should we consider, where should we volunteer, where can we best help out? How can we be sure that while we fulfil the needs of the voluntary organisation our own needs are going to be addressed?
Commitment – The most important aspect you need to look at before you offer your time is to evaluate your availability. You need to determine when you have time available and how much time you can give. Once you make the commitment the organisation will begin to rely on your presence and the people you are helping will begin to expect having you around. Don’t go into volunteering unless you are prepared to stick it out. Many board meetings for non-profit organisations are usually held in the evening so you won’t have to miss work.
Interests – Look at your interests. Are you drawn to working with adults, students or young children? Do you have a particular cause you have been drawn to or that interests you? What skills do you feel you have to offer? Are you ready to provide the skills in your chosen career or are there skills you would prefer to utilise and enhance? By going prepared, you are already determining where you can best be of service rather than feel “put upon” because you are assigned something you really did not wish to do. This would then challenge your commitment to the cause and your reason for staying.
What is motivating you?
Motivating Factor – Why are you doing this? If you are looking for high visibility or want to work with influential business people, then perhaps look at an organisation that has a high profile already within the business community. If you just want to “do something worthwhile” then choose the organisation that best suits your reasons for volunteering.
Networking as a Volunteer
Once you begin your volunteer career, it is important to observe proper volunteer etiquette. Be sincere in your efforts and avoid blatant self-promotion. You need to realise you have to build trust and credibility with other members of the organisation and volunteers before reaping the rewards. Volunteering means more than just showing up at meetings. Share your expertise to help the organisation reach its goals, or volunteer to learn a new skill so both you and the organisation are rewarded.
Find the Right Opportunity
Look at the needs in your community, and think about your skills and talents. Then create your own special connection through a service activity that is right for you. King George VI said, “The highest of distinctions is service to others.” It may also be a good way to move your career into high gear.
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