What’s good for you and your career? Volunteering!

Daffodil Day - Cancer Council - Dorota and Jess

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Did you know that over six million Australians volunteer every year? That means one in four of us are giving our time to help others, and according to research those who volunteer are happier as a result. Of course, helping those who are less fortunate is a reward in itself, but it can also benefit your career!

How can you get involved?

There are charities for a wide variety causes in Australia; in fact, there are some 60,000 charities registered here. The majority of charities rely on the goodwill of others to help them run their day-to-day activities. Millions of hours are poured into charities every year by volunteers, without which these charities wouldn’t be able to operate and help the communities they serve.

There are many roles available in charities; from helping out in the office, to improving their web presence, cleaning up your local environment, assisting the elderly, surf lifesaving, or finding new homes for abandoned animals. You can also find many charities and organisations who need help at different hours, so you can schedule your volunteering around work, family life and other responsibilities.

An ideal way to boost your career prospects

While volunteering is a great way to utilise skills you already possess, it can also help you develop new ones, such as communication or teamwork. Many charities have a ‘muck-in mentality’, which means you may end up helping out in ways you’d never even thought of! The skills you learn can be transferred to future career opportunities as they open up new horizons and can even help you realise you need a change in your career. As well as developing skills, employers like candidates who volunteer and it makes a good talking point, so think about how volunteering experiences could give you a step up when you next interview for a new job!

Volunteering helps spice up your resume but can also prepare in other ways. For example, interviewing for volunteering opportunities can provide useful preparation or practice for future career-based interviews. Volunteering can also help you extend your network.

If you’re thinking of switching roles or moving to a new industry, volunteering in that area can be a great way to test the field, giving you a clearer sense of what it would involve.

What should you do before you start?

Giving your time selflessly to charities is a bold move and you need to enter into it knowing what you can offer and also what limitations you have in terms of the time you can donate. It may help to write a list of your skills and to search for volunteering opportunities that would require one or more of these.

You don’t want to realise a few months in that a volunteer role you’ve taken on is consuming more time than you have available. It does, after all, take time for charities to brief and train volunteers, so you don’t want to use their valuable resources without thinking it through. However, many charitable organisations will need volunteers on different days and hours, including casual roles; with a little research, you will be able to find something that will fit.

So, once you’ve got your list of skills and have formed a picture of what time you have available, you can start searching for opportunities directly with the charities you’re interested in. Alternatively, organisations such as Volunteering Australia can give you all the information you need on volunteering and available roles.

Become happier through volunteering

Volunteering has many benefits for you and for the people or cause you’re donating to, but studies also show it makes you happier! Research first carried out in the 1980s showed that volunteers experience a “helper’s high” – a sense of euphoria from helping others. You are literally able to turn your negative feelings into positive ones by virtue of helping others. It’s a win-win situation!

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