Service After YVC
YVC prepared you for a lifetime of service, so there is no need to stop volunteering now that you are a YVC alum. These tips are designed to help you find the best service opportunities for you, and to ensure that you get the most out of your experience!
1) Think about what would be a good fit for you. There are endless opportunities for volunteering both nationally and internationally. To choose the best opportunity for you, ask yourself the following questions:
What issues concern me most?
What skills do I have to offer?
What do I want to get out of this experience? Am I looking to develop a particular skill or explore a possible career path?
What kind of activity would I most like to do?
In what type of atmosphere do I want to volunteer?
How much time do I have to give each week?
How long of a commitment do I want? Do I want a one-time opportunity, or something more regular?
2) Become familiar with all of the places you can learn about volunteer opportunities, including:
- Volunteer Match
- Local volunteer posting sites
- Service-oriented student organizations at universities
- Your local United Way
- Directly from nonprofits: Find a nonprofit whose mission you believe in and check out their website. Oftentimes, they will have volunteer opportunities posted on their site. If not, feel free to contact them directly! Most nonprofits love when people reach out to them to begin volunteering!
3) Put your best foot forward! So you have reached out to an organization with which you would like to volunteer – Now what? Chances are, you will have to fill out a formal application, and you may even need to interview. Be prepared for this! Treat the application process in the same way you would when applying for paid employment. This means dressing professionally, arriving on time, and possibly even bringing along a resume. Come knowing what the organization does, and why you want to get involved there – telling them that you don’t know what they do but that you “need the hours” will not impress anyone. Also, remember that interviews are two-way streets: They want to make sure that you are a good fit for their organization, but you should also use the interview to ask questions that will help you decide if they are a good fit for what you are looking for.
4) Take your commitment seriously. Continue to put your best foot forward even after you begin volunteering. Make every effort to be punctual; if there’s a dress code, follow it; and, if the organization has a volunteer manual or general policy and procedures manual (it probably does!), make sure that you read it and follow its provisions. A volunteer who does not follow organizational policy may be more of a hindrance than an asset.
5) Get to know the staff and the organization well. As you volunteer, know who your supervisor is. Get to know her/him. Introduce yourself to the other staff and know what they do, as well as let them know what you are doing. They are all invaluable resources to help navigate you through your volunteer experience. It also helps to try volunteering for a significant amount of time; don’t always rely on one-time commitments. When you volunteer regularly with the same organization over many months or years you learn the most about organization and the populations it serves.
6) Don’t be afraid to share ideas for the place where you are volunteering. Most organizations want to see that you care enough to think critically and provide fresh ideas for their organization. Even if you are young or relatively new, you might have an idea for new projects, ideas for how projects can be better run, or other ideas that could help the organization. Make sure you phrase your ideas so that they do not come across in a negative way, which leads us to point 7…
7) Be humble and open to feedback. Even if you are a skilled volunteer, the staff and volunteers who are already there will be better experts of their organization. You may have ideas – even awesome ones – but they will know the most as to whether or not those ideas will work for them at that time. Just as you will want them to hear you out, you should be open to hearing them out. It is important to remember that when you become a volunteer, you are joining a team.
8) Consider an internship. If you are looking for something a bit more involved than regular volunteering, internships may be the way to go! Generally, internships require a commitment of a higher number of hours per week over a certain number of weeks or months. They can be part-time or full-time. With internships, you may have an opportunity to get involved in a way that requires greater responsibility than general volunteering, and you will likely have more interaction with a supervisor, so you can learn even more!
9) Have fun. If you’re not enjoying it, you are unlikely to want to stay for
long, less likely to learn and be challenged, and less likely to give it your all. If you’re not happy with the experience, don’t be afraid to question why and make adjustments. Organizational cultures differ, and it might just be that you would be a better fit in a different organization, even if it provides the same services. Volunteering should be about service AND personal fulfillment.
10) Consider incorporating service into your academic path and ultimately career. Any college major can lead to a lifetime of service, but some are more specifically geared to it (for example, social work or nonprofit studies). Talk to a college guidance counselor for help finding the right path for you. You can also consider service programs for adults, such as AmeriCorps or Peace Corps, to help launch a career of service.