Seeking Volunteer Opportunities as a College Student

Looking to bulk up your resume? Want to add something to your CV?  Do you wish to learn a new technical skill or improve a soft one? Are you passionate about a particular cause that you want to contribute your efforts to it?

Then volunteering is a great opportunity for you!

With various benefits, volunteering can be a rewarding experience, but may be difficult to seek an opportunity that aligns with your interests. Sometimes, certain opportunities can be even difficult to attain, because many students apply for the same position. ‘Competitive’ volunteer placements can be witnessed in hospital-type settings, laboratories, clinical-related workplaces, and government organizations.

Take a look at these helpful tips when you’re seeking a volunteer opportunity. If you have your own tips for volunteer seekers, please list them in the comments section!

  1. Identify your objective.
Image courtesy of Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig.

Image courtesy of Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig.

Are you looking to improve your resume? Do you want to gain experience in a certain field? Do you want to learn something new, or are you passionate about a particular cause?

Like anything else in life, it’s important to identify why you want to volunteer. Although the basis of volunteer work is to contribute your time/skills to help others, some view such an experience as a means of gaining experience or an opportunity to network. Sometimes it’s a combination of all three things.

By identifying your motivation/s behind volunteering, you can gauge the type of volunteer opportunities you’d like to seek. If you’re looking to improve your ‘people skills’, you may be interested in volunteering at your local hospital, library, or college campus. However, if you’re more interested in learning new technical skills, you may be more inclined to find placements in a research laboratory or a for-profit company.

  1. Reflect on your interests.
Image courtesy of Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig.

Image courtesy of Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig.

Volunteer opportunities are typically vast and plenty, with placements offered in many areas of interest. It’s important to identify what you enjoy and what piques your interest. However, it’s also important to consider that volunteer experiences outside of your interest/s may be equally enriching and interesting.

If you can’t find an opportunity related to your interest in science, perhaps you can consider other volunteer opportunities involving arts, culture, animals, or children. To a varying degree, all volunteer experiences can help you develop your interpersonal skills that are transferable to any future experience.

Seek volunteer opportunities that are offered in your fields of interest, but be open to possibilities that are unrelated to them, as you are bound to learn new things about your interests (and yourself!).

  1. Consult websites catered to volunteer seeking.

Websites that contain archives of volunteer placements are a goldmine. You can conduct specific searches and even find opportunities that are closest (and convenient) for you. Websites such as Volunteer Match, Charity Village and Volunteer Base Camp are great starting points. Also consult your city’s website for local opportunities, as well as your university’s webpage for opportunities around your college campus.

  1. Research the organization and/or company of interest.

Do some background research about organizations and/or companies that you are interested volunteering for, so you can expect what kind of volunteer environment you will be subjected to, and understand the overall purpose of the organization. Additionally, organizations may also hold interviews for volunteer positions, so it’s best to do some preliminary research about your placement.

When you’re searching for placements, remind yourself that this is similar to finding a job; That is, you’re not going to start working for a company that you have no knowledge about. By doing simple background research on the organization, you are identifying their credibility, legitimacy, and overall objective for existing.

  1. Create your own opportunity!

Sometimes, you can’t always find your ‘ideal’ volunteer placement on the Internet. Some opportunities present themselves when you are networking and interacting with others face-to-face. The Internet is certainly a great way to find such volunteer opportunities, but physically interacting with potential supervisors and employers are incalculably valuable.

If you wish to volunteer in environments such as a university research laboratory or even within a hospital, it doesn’t hurt to contact the supervisors running the show. Contact them (usually via e-mail) courteously and inquire about potential volunteer opportunities in their workplace, expressing your interest while providing a resume/CV.

Image courtesy of Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig.

Image courtesy of Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig.

Alternatively, if you are not able to find a perfect volunteer opportunity and can’t find an organization that shares your interest, perhaps you should consider starting your own volunteer troupe. Keep in mind that this option requires a lot of time commitment, organization, and use of your personal professional network.

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