Whichever way you look at it, volunteering to help out at an organization fighting for a noble cause is a great idea. First and foremost, the effort you expend in your work and the passion with which you approach the experience will be of great service to a non-profit, many of which struggle desperately to find funding and manpower. Second of all, the experience will equip you with practical skills and knowledge, which often cannot be easily gained in any other way, to help you grow as a person. And finally, volunteer experience is one of the first things that prospective employers will look for on your resume when you apply for jobs.
Once you know that volunteer work is something that you are interested in doing, working out the type of organization to which you want to dedicate your time and effort can be tricky. When it comes to choosing a worthy cause, the following are a few questions you should consider before jumping in.
- Is it something you feel passionately about?
The first question is naturally the most important. Before you even start looking at possible volunteer opportunities, spend an hour brainstorming the things that you feel are really worth fighting for in life. Once, you have come up with a few ideas (some of which may surprise you!), start looking for vacancies at organizations that work in the area(s) you have defined.
- Can you imagine yourself being good at the role?
Before you apply to a volunteer position, it is worth thinking briefly about whether your skillset and personality would be able to perform the role well. Just believing in a cause does not mean that working to promote it will be the right fit for you. There is little point applying to volunteer positions in which you may struggle due to a lack of the right skills to carry out the tasks associated with the role.
- Does it fit with your career goals?
A key consideration once you have identified your cause is to try to look at the bigger picture. You will probably have some idea of where you want to get to in your career, and your choice of cause should be in some way relatable to your professional goals. For example, if you want to become a lawyer, why not apply for a position at a non-profit legal firm fighting for human rights?
- Is the organization known for looking after its volunteers?
Once you have settled on a cause and found an organisation which is offering volunteer opportunities, conduct an online search for the testimonials of previous volunteers. Unfortunately, the internet is full of stories of organizations which are known for exploiting the goodwill of volunteers. You want to make sure that the organization is ethically-sound and will provide you with an experience that is valuable and educational.
Choosing a worthy cause is the first step to finding a volunteer position that will benefit you and help you reach your long-term career goals. By addressing the four questions mentioned above, you should be able to find a volunteer experience which endows you with the skills that will serve you well in your future career.