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Opportunities from Volunteering

Jocelyn Grabke, iBBA 2019

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Remember when you had to complete 40 hours of volunteer work? Remember wishing you got paid for the work you did? Schools across Canada have a general requirement that students complete between 25 to 40 hours of community service – depending on the school board regulations – before graduation. The volunteering is supposed to teach students the importance of giving back to the community and also give them their first encounter with the outside world.  But now that we have already completed that, and entered university, we should be getting paid, right?

We are entering that time of year again. Students are putting together their resumes, typing up countless cover letters, searching every available job board, looking for anything substantial, and anything paid. While working throughout the summer gives great experience and compensation, there is a lot to be said about community involvement and volunteering. In my first year of university, I applied to work at a local refugee shelter. I would be lying if I said that was my first choice for a summer job, but as it turned out, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.

Different people decide to get involved in community service for different reasons. Besides money, volunteering gives people the chance to discover other motivations. People may choose to volunteer if they are passionate about a certain cause or charity. For example, I have a passion for helping children in need. I was able to do that by helping refugee families, and by spending a summer in Thailand to volunteer at an orphanage. Volunteering gives someone the chance to discover new reasons why they go to work every day. It illustrates what someone is enthusiastic about, or a cause they are dedicated to. This isn’t only helpful when it comes to understanding themselves better as a person, but it also helps convey what kind of person they are, when they do build their resume. This makes their resume more diverse. It would show recruiters the character of the person, and in an interview, they could use this as a vessel to dive into something they are passionate about.

My favourite thing about community involvement would be the diversity the job brings. Throughout my first week at the refugee shelter, I showed up in heels and a blazer. I didn’t expect my role to fall very far from the responsibilities outlined in my job description which would have meant I would be behind my laptop from 9 to 5. My second day on the job proved me wrong. None of the other staff had arrived, but the food donation truck had, and it needed to be sorted through. I was unaware that this was a weekly occurrence and didn’t know what to do when a man came to tell me in broken English that I had to go outside to get the donations. Needless to say, it was a struggle to transport a week’s worth of food inside of the center in heels. But from that day on, I realized just how many opportunities would be available to me while I was there. By the end of the summer, I accomplished things that I never even considered I would be doing, from translating legal documents into French to filling out applications for a refugee status. While at the shelter, I realized that I was receiving more than what I thought I was contributing.  I had the opportunity to hear the struggles that people went through and was incredibly inspired by what they shared.

Community involvement not only strengthens our community, but helps students take a step back and realize what exactly it is that they would want to do. They get the opportunity to experience different environments in which they can learn if they are the type of person who would enjoy an office job, or would they rather be pursuing something else entirely. Volunteering gives them the experience and flexibility to explore the endless options available to them and may even open the door to new career pathways.

Volunteering is also a great way to build relationships with professionals. Especially if the individual is volunteering for an organization they would one day want to work for, these positions are a great opportunity to start building those connections.

Although university students do not have a set number of hours to complete, the experience they receive from volunteering can be invaluable. All the best to everyone applying to summer positions now, and don’t forget to consider all the options available to students.

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