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Student Volunteers’ Week 2024: How Volunteering Ignited My Career

16th February 2024

Growing up as a Polytechnic student in ‘Middle Earth’ New Zealand, I was blessed with a great education and skills I still use to this day. Nevertheless, when I finished my Media course, I found myself at a loss… I had acquired new abilities but was still unsure of where to apply them. In fact: apart from a weekend department store job, the world of full-time employment was something of a mystery. The sheer logistics of commuting and workplace culture were unknown to me: let alone any bigger questions of what I’d like to do every day and what kind of environment would suit me best!

In short, I needed time to think and chose to stay in education for two extra years. Although I certainly don’t regret gaining my postgraduate qualification and extra skills: I would admit my decision was partially based on the uncertainty of what came next.

Student volunteering, volunteers

Building confidence through volunteering and finding my vocation

In my last two years, The Waikato Polytechnic began advertising some volunteer positions in the local community. Wanting to help out, I became the coordinator for my local branch of a national mental health charity. I found the challenge of meeting the volunteers, assigning them collection points, and compiling their donations to be incredibly fulfilling – and I found the responsibility to be a massive boost to my confidence. And I developed skills such as:

  • People Management: Contacting and coordinating groups of volunteers
  • Cash handling: collecting and tallying donations
  • Interpersonal Skills: fundraising directly door-to-door. Meeting people in the community

In fact, the combination of communicating with staff and volunteers and conveying our fundraising mission to the public, revealed to me my vocation going forward – Communications!

Student volunteering, volunteers

Student Volunteers share their energy, attitude, and enthusiasm

Throughout my career since, I have had the great fortune to work (and volunteer!) alongside Student Volunteers and have been astonished by their energy, attitude, and enthusiasm. Based on my own formative years, it’s wonderful to see young people try new things, meet diverse communities, and gain new skills.

In particular, for any student working out their next step: volunteering is the perfect way to discover a rich variety of workplaces, industries and experiences. Not to mention great colleagues, cultures and yes – great friends. There’s nothing like new hands-on activities to discover what makes you feel fulfilled, challenged and engaged. And you’ll be making a real difference to your community at the same time.

For many students, it’s also the beginning of a very real love for volunteering itself. Throughout all stages of my life since;  I’ve continued to draw incredible fulfillment as a volunteer: for organisations as diverse as The Crystal Palace Dinosaurs conservation and the Museum of Immigration.

Student volunteering, volunteers

Volunteering offers new experiences, skills, and fulfillment

These days, I work for Groundwork London: a paid position, working on projects that involve volunteers. In particular, Volunteering BarnetVolunteering Kingston and Corporate Volunteering. I have worked with an inspiring range of charities, community projects, and Volunteer Involving Organisations (VIOs). From the HAF School Holiday Meals initiative, to befriending people with disabilities, to IT, social media, working with children, gardening and much more.

I love where I work because it’s amazing to see such a helpful infrastructure – prospective volunteers have access to an extensive database of current opportunities in their borough, and then are given support, advice and follow-on opportunities throughout their volunteering journey.

So… Welcome students! At Volunteering Barnet and Volunteering Kingston, we have opportunities (with more being added all the time) we think you’ll really enjoy. Have fun getting involved in the community, meeting new people, and learning new things.

It’s a wonderful way to help work out where you want to be!

– Anthony, Communications Officer at Groundwork London

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