As a student, you are going to have a lot of wonderful experiences that will teach you a lot about life. Some of them you will seek out yourself while others will be mandatory for you to have. The ones that are forced upon you-you pretty have no choice in deciding. It is in the space of experiences you seek out yourself that there is room for a world of possibilities. One of these is student volunteering.
What is Student Volunteering?
In a nutshell, student volunteering is when a student goes out of their way to offer free labor and services to some organization, usually a non-profit organization, in order to give back to the community and gain experience.
It’s a great thing that makes you feel good and like you are adding value to the world while also improving your skills and network of contacts so that getting employment in the future will not be hard.
That said, seeing as it involves free labor, student volunteering is naturally not something that you will see the benefit of immediately. You may need a little more convincing in order to buy into it.
Read on to find out how volunteering can help you gain new skills and experience.
I did some student volunteering myself in my student days, and most of the things I am going to tell you in this article are practical lessons I learned during my experiences.
It offers you Industry Related Skills
You’re not going to be good at your career by attending classes alone. You need to get out on the field and get your hands dirty, especially if your chosen course and associated career involve a lot of practical field work.
The problem is that it’s very hard to get any paid work while you’re still a student. No one can vouch for your skill or experience, and very few people will be willing to pay you to learn at their expense.
That leaves you with working for free. When you present yourself as a student volunteer, people are much more willing to take you on. On the one hand, you’re free labor that lessens the workload at the office, and they welcome the value that you add.
On the other hand, it is a wonderful opportunity for you to learn new skills and get to see how things happen in the real world outside of your classroom.
The kind of skills you can gain out in the field will put you far ahead of your peers and, come time to look for jobs, the extra experience on your resume as well as the recommendation letter from your student volunteering employer will make your resume look that much better than your peers.
There is a constant debate over whether leaders are born or made. We’re not going to talk about that today. Whether you believe you were born to be a leader or think you can be a leader through experience, the fact is that student volunteering will teach you valuable leadership skills.
You will understand what it’s like to work in a team and how to get other people to work together to achieve a greater goal.
These leadership skills will be transferrable to other areas of your life and will help turn you into a hardworking and responsible adult with a focused vision that other people will naturally want to rally around.
You learn Time Management Skills
Because a lot of your time will be taken up by responsibilities and deadlines on the field, you will eventually learn the lesson of how to manage your time. As they like to say, time is money, and nowhere is this truer than in the work environment.
As a student volunteer, you will have a lot of responsibilities assigned to you and deadlines attached to those responsibilities. You will also want to do your own stuff, such as school homework, fun activities and so on.
Being a student volunteer will force you to internalize the concept of work0life balance pretty early in your life. For example, if your job as a student volunteer involves traveling and will put you somewhere far from home, you’re going to have to figure out how to get your homework done and still submit it in time.
I used to do my homework online and still have it in my professor’s email inbox on time, even though I was thousands of miles away. You will also have to learn to do everything you need to do when it needs to be done so that you can set aside some time for your hobbies.
You learn to communicate with Clients and Stakeholders
Remember that one semester class you took on communication skills? Well, you’re going to get the opportunity to apply it in real life now.
Part of your experience as a student volunteer will involve actively talking to clients and different stakeholders and keeping relationships with your company strong.
You will quickly learn that not everyone is polite in the real world. Some people will have had a terrible day by the time they approach you, and they will probably take it out on you.
You will have to be calm throughout and have to find ways to defuse their anger without getting angry yourself. This is nothing like the theories you learn in class. Those theories mean absolutely nothing if you do not practice.
You will also learn how to be more persuasive in real life. You will learn how to make people feel comfortable and how to get them to see things from your point of view without damaging the relationship between you. All of these lessons will be valuable and will set you up for a long and fruitful career.
You will learn Problem Solving and Adaptability
Because of the numerous variables acting at the same time, and the constant mix of people, responsibilities, deadlines, and environments that you will have to work in as a student volunteer, you will eventually run into problems, most of them involving either conflict of interest or fulfilling your mandate in some task. That is where the problem-solving skills come in.
What is life but a succession of problems that we continue to solve as we go along? In fact, who would want it any other way? If life were utter bliss and no problems existed, it would be rather boring, don’t you think?
Well, as a student volunteer, you will have plenty of problems to solve and will hone your problem-solving skills in the process.
You will also likely be in a completely new environment that you will not know how to deal with at first. That’s how you will develop adaptability and learn how to fit in just about anywhere. That is yet another valuable skill that will help you when you actually begin your career.
As you can see, the benefits of student volunteering are practically endless. It is a great experience that will leave you a much better person than you were when you started. If you have the opportunity, don’t think too hard about it; take it and figure things out as you go along.
Michael Turner is a writer and blogger that focuses on education, technology, and self-improvement. He loves to write and almost entirely lives for it. However, when he’s not writing, he loves to spend time in the outdoors hiking and camping. You can connect with him on Twitter.