It’s well known that Australia has one of the highest volunteer participation rates in the world. We as a nation are very generous with our time to help the environment and those in need in our communities.
I must admit though that I wasn’t one of those generous souls! But life has a way of opening our eyes to our shortcomings if we let it. A year ago my “stable,” “comfortable” life was turned upside down. I had to leave Sydney and haven’t been able to work full-time since.
What exactly happened that turned my world upside down………? Nothing that hasn’t happened or will at some point happen to most of us.
My six year relationship ended, I was stagnating in a career that I had lost passion for and both my parents were gravely ill (and living in another state).
So I made the only decision I could and moved up to look after my parents on the Gold Coast, which for the first 4 months was a full time job. Which might sound rather noble but in fact it was also good timing for me as I desperately needed a career change.
Let’s get to the meat of this blog on volunteering. I needed to change my career but had no realistic options because of my commitment to my parents. This quickly became very frustrating and I had to do something to break out of a negative mindset.
Then volunteering came to mind!
It was something that I had meant to do but always had an excuse why I couldn’t. I now had spare time and was in no position to tackle an immediate and “full-on” career shift. Volunteering had an immediately positive impact because I was out in the community doing good for people.
What I also did was to volunteer strategically. By this I mean I chose to volunteer into an industry where I saw good career potential. I had known for a while that I wanted to move away from Corporate Training into an area that for me would be more meaningful, like Community Education. So I applied to become an Adult Literacy Volunteer Tutor at Gold Coast TAFE. I also applied to volunteer at the Migrant Centre at Southport. I have been working for both these organisations for the past year. So upon reflection what have been the benefits…..
1. I have gained invaluable insight into an industry which I knew very little about.
2. I now have first hand working experience that I can call upon at interview with any potential employers.
3. I have been offered private tuition work as a result of my volunteer work.
4. I have also been offered a part-time job contract starting later in the year, as a result of my volunteer work.
5. Several colleagues are now working as my career advocates within the Community Education sector. So I not only have a healthy network of contacts, some of those contacts are networking on my behalf!
6. Volunteering has been flexible around my other commitments, which reduces my stress and anxiety whilst boosting my self confidence.
7. Even though I am not in paid work, I still have a powerful and positive story to tell at interview with potential employers. I didn’t sit back and react to negative circumstances. I took positive action with limited means and I found a way around road blocks. I have been flexible in finding creative solutions to a temporary career “stall” and got the engine purring again.
All very positive messages to be made at interview.