By Alex Petrowski - April 10th, 2017
Alex Petrowski is earning her bachelor’s degree at CSU-Global, but she may not have been on that path if it wasn’t for her volunteer work. In honor of National Volunteer Week, April 23-29, Petrowski is highlighting the benefits of volunteering, and how volunteer work can help your career take off. If you’re looking for a more fulfilling career, wondering what your next move is professionally or educationally, or just asking, “what’s next?”, keep reading. You may find that you do have time for the extra work when you see how it could payoff for your future.
Discovering your passion, or simply trying to figure out the next step in life is not always a walk in the park. It could feel more like breathlessly hiking a soaring mountain. Sometimes we fall victim to feeling stuck, thinking, “what major should I choose?”, “what job do I see myself in?”, or the generic, “what should I be doing with my life?” These are the million dollar questions you may have revisited many times over, and if you’re asking more than answering, it may be time to consider the benefits of volunteering.
Volunteering is a surefire way to gain a fresh perspective, not only in terms of choosing a degree or deciding on a career path, but in your personal life as well. Volunteering can help you discover hidden passions and shed light on your meaningful purpose.
The “Why” of Volunteering
Your motivation to volunteer should stream from a sense of fulfillment you gain from doing something without a tangible return, like money. The feeling of being fulfilled can, and should, be applied to your career choice so you can experience genuine happiness and contentment with the occupation you choose. Volunteering eliminates the financial incentive of job prospects and provides an authentic, valuable experience. There is an extreme amount of value in working because you actually enjoy the work, rather than need the compensation.
With that said, volunteering isn’t just about doing good-hearted deeds, but also acquiring skills that can be applied in the work force. Gaining experience in the field you want to excel in can develop a range of skills you may not acquire if you’re stuck feeling stuck. High level skills can include the following, depending on the type of volunteer role you take:
- Leadership and management.
- Problem solving and adaptability.
- Time management.
- Working in teams.
- Diversity and inclusion.
Who says you can’t do some good in the world while meeting your own professional and personal goals?
On top of being able to add these skills to your resume, volunteering can also offer opportunities in networking and garnering new professional contacts. Who says you can’t do some good in the world while meeting your own professional and personal goals?
You may be thinking that you don’t have time to take on the added responsibility of volunteering, and I get that. Most of us are busy enough with work, school, family, friends, and other responsibilities, but volunteering isn’t about the quantity of time you devote; it’s the quality.
For me personally, I threw volunteering into my juggling act because I thought it would help me get unstuck and give me the answers I needed to move forward. Fortunately, I got more than just answers, and volunteering ended up benefiting me in an abundance of ways.
It’s not like I devoted my life to volunteer work, I just signed up for a weekly shift at my local Humane Society walking and caring for shelter dogs. To my surprise, this tiny investment of my time turned out to be life changing.
Through this fee and easy opportunity, I realized I had totally disregarded my intense, imbedded passion for helping animals; specifically rescuing and raising awareness about the countless defenseless animals in need. On top of the fulfilment I got from completing my volunteer duties, I was cultivating friendships and networking with other volunteers, whom I never would have met without this opportunity.
To my surprise, this tiny investment of my time turned out to be life changing.
One thing lead to another, and I landed an internship with a local grassroots non-profit whose mission is geared towards helping animals in a number of ways. Of course, it took some time to put the pieces of my puzzle together: first identifying the feeling of fulfillment I got through my volunteer work, then making connections with people in the field, and finally moving forward professionally, and in my education, toward a career goal. Without the volunteer work, I’m not sure I would have landed on my current path.
I realized what my passions were and where I saw myself professionally, and I could finally visualize and map the steps I needed to take to get there. I finally had the answers I needed and effortlessly decided to pursue a bachelor’s in communication with a specialization in public and nonprofit management at CSU-Global.
This simple volunteer opportunity provided me with a sense of enthusiasm and elation about my future that was absent before. I wasn’t stuck anymore.
Discovering Your Passion
The act of giving back will be packaged differently for everyone based on the motivation behind the mission and your actual responsibilities. Spending time at a nursing home or homeless shelter, in a one-on-one environment providing company and companionship, may lead to a future in healthcare or human services.
If you’d rather contribute to the overall mission of an organization, you may find fulfillment at a community garden or literacy program where sustainability and investment are the pillars of your efforts. These experiences may lead you toward a career in organizational leadership, criminal justice, or applied social sciences.
No matter where your interests lie, there are always organizations that could use your help. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and try something new. If you find something isn’t a good fit, you’ve still taken steps to get unstuck and answer the questions necessary to move forward. It’s just as important to know what you don’t want to do, as it is to know what you do want to do.
Volunteering is a win/win situation where you get to investigate your interests, gain new skills, and make connections for the future, while the volunteer agency benefits from your time and contributions. Your future will thank you as will the organizations you volunteer for.
Alex Petrowski is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in communications with a specialization in public and nonprofit management at Colorado State University-Global Campus. She is heavily involved in volunteer work with animal welfare nonprofits and she aspires to transition this experience into a full-time career. Alex hopes to one day publish children’s books that convey a message of compassion towards animals. In her spare time, Alex enjoys writing, baking, and experiencing new cultures through travel.