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Volunteering

Volunteers can be found in thousands of organisations, and voluntary work is possible in hundreds of different roles. All fit together to bring benefits or support to others in the community. By volunteering you can develop your skills, build a network of contacts, increase your employability, enhance your self-esteem and gain insights into a range of career paths. Putting some thought into why you might take on voluntary work will help you to choose the type of work and organisation that is a good match for you. Typical motivations include:

To make a difference

To gain valuable and valued experience

To build work readiness

To learn new things

To build skills

To access training and development

For fun and fulfillment

To meet new people and useful contacts

To explore likes and dislikes

To explore a range of roles

For more information see:

Volunteering for career development.pdf

How to volunteer

There are many ways to find voluntary work. The links in the table below will take you to some of these and to more information on New Zealand’s voluntary sector in general. However you may also want to contact us for further advice. Remember too that if there is a particular organisation you’d like to volunteer with you can contact them directly. They are likely to ask you about the skills and experience you can offer and how much time you can spare (and when).

Massey CareerHub

see its section on voluntary work/work experience.

Volunteering NZ

AN association of New Zealand organisations that have a commitment to volunteering, such as volunteer centres, national and other organisations.

VolunteerNet

a New Zealand based  Facebook page - connecting people looking for volunteering opportunities with event organisers looking for volunteers.

Choosing a volunteer opportunity

Make sure that you select one that’s a good ‘fit’ for you. Spend some time considering:

Your skills: You can select roles to match your skills or to help you to develop others – perhaps because they are important for your future career. Either way, talk to organisations that interest you about the roles that might suit you best.

The time that you can spare: Organisations will want to know how much time you can offer them, and whether or not this would be on a regular and fixed basis. Some will be keenest on volunteers who can work on regular shifts.

The causes that interest and inspire you: There are often far-reaching benefits from voluntary work. No matter the tasks that you undertake, the organisation’s cause is advanced by your work.

Whether or not you can travel: There’s no guarantee that the organisations that interest you will be able to pay any travel expenses that you might incur. As a result, you may have to consider how much it will cost you to get to and from the venue where you will volunteer. Consider too how long it will take you to get there. Would this decrease the amount of time you have to actually volunteer?

What your objectives are: In other words, what you want from the experience. What aspects of work do you want to experience?

Volunteering and leadership

Leadership potential and skills are highly valued by employers and voluntary work can offer a great way to develop yours. They centre upon persuasion and upon getting people to grasp and follow your vision. However, they also encompass earning the respect and trust of colleagues and your ability to:

Earn the trust and respect of other people

Show moral responsibility

Show respect

Operate ethically

Attract loyalty

Encourage others to grow and succeed

Provide care through establishing quality relationships

Demonstrate your concern for others

Volunteering and skills development

Voluntary work is a great way to develop skills and attributes that are impressive to potential employers. They may include:

Communication

Creative thinking

Event planning and organising

Project management

Enterprise

Willingness to try new things

People management

Self-motivation

Active listening

Interpersonal

Working with different cultures

Innovation

Problem solving

Teamwork

Time management

Working independently

Use of initiative

Ability to manage stress

Decision making

Positive attitude about the future

Voluntary work shows employers that you are socially responsible and can demonstrate commitment. In job interviews employers often ask for examples of times when you have shown particular skills. Your voluntary work can provide you with great examples to use, particularly when you have:

  • Taken all opportunities to become fully involved and learn;
  • Talked to colleagues about their roles, backgrounds, goals and experience;
  • Maintained a written log of your experiences in which you record what you're doing and learning;
  • When the placement ended, asked your manager or supervisor to act as a referee for your future job applications;
  • Reflected on how the placement went - what you learnt and how has this affected your career plans. The Career and Employment Service can help you to think this through.

Volunteering overseas

Do your research first. Not for profit organisations offer these opportunities but you’ll also find a wealth of profit-making organisations that organise trips overseas for volunteers – at a cost. As you tackle your research, points to consider include the following:

  • What are you likely to gain from the experience and from any money that you are paying?
  • If you are planning to pay, how much of your money would be going towards the organisation’s administration and marketing? How much is contributed to the project and the community?
  • To what extent will you be able to choose the type of work that you’ll be doing; where you will be living; your travel arrangements and how you spend your free time?
  • How will the work that you do benefit all parties – you; the organisation and the clients/communities with which you’ll be working?
  • What type of experience would be right for you?
  • Are you clear about what you’d be doing and the skills required?
  • What training will be provided to you?
  • What support does the organisation provide to its volunteers – before they leave New Zealand, in the country concerned and on their return?
  • To what extent is the work on offer an ‘adventure holiday’ rather than designed to meet a genuine need for volunteers?
  • How would you prefer to work – e.g. on your own; with other volunteers; with people from the local community or a mixture?
  • Can I be put in contact with returned volunteers who have worked through the same organisation? If you can, you should.
  • What would happen should something go wrong - for example if you have to return home at short notice or fall ill? Would the organisation pay for and/or arrange my journey home; medical treatment etc?

Organisations that offer opportunities to volunteer overseas include:

  • Volunteer Service Abroad – See Volunteering Overseas – their on-line guide to volunteering in a developing country.
  • AIESEC - international work exchanges – student organisation involved in international work experience programmes.
  • Frontier – This organisation is involved in International wildlife development and conservation work projects.
  • Go overseas – this is a community driven website of like-minded people who are passionate about teaching, studying and volunteering abroad
  • Love volunteers - a non-profit organisation providing volunteering opportunities in developing countries.
  • Global Volunteer Network – offers volunteer opportunities in community projects throughout the world (fees charged).
  • Projects Abroad – a variety of teaching and other voluntary projects in a range of places across the world (fees charged).
  • Raleigh International Expeditions – This is a youth development charity that runs 3-month expeditions 12 times a year to Ghana, Namibia, Chile, Costa Rica & Nicaragua and Malaysia.
  • United Nations Volunteers – information on volunteer work with the UN.
  • Youth Challenge International - this organisation is sponsored by the public and private sectors in Canada and abroad. It combines community development, health education and environmental work in adventurous projects carried out by teams of volunteers aged 18-30. Fees are charged to cover living costs.

Safety first

Voluntary work is likely to be safe but there are steps that you can take to maximise your safety (and that of others). Remember that you have a responsibility to be safe and to act in a safe manner. To help with this, consider the following:

What risks might the tasks of my job involve and how might I minimise or avoid these?

Try to work in pairs – particularly when out in public

Safeguard valuable property – yours and that of the organisation

Where you arrange meetings with others, try to use public places or an organisation’s premises

Plan your route and your journey

Follow the safety instructions that you are given by the organisation

If you are working away from the organisation, tell colleagues where you are going; who if anyone, you’re meeting; when you’ll be back and who to make contact with if you’re not back at the allotted time.

Induction

When you first join an organisation you should be provided with an induction and this should cover:

Where applicable, a tour of their premises

An outline of health & safety procedures

An outline of your role, tasks and responsibilities

Information on any dress code they have

Details of relevant systems and paperwork

Reporting systems for you to follow

An introduction to your supervisor and other staff

Relevant training that you will undertake

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