If you asked me three years ago if I would consider volunteering on SFU’s campus, I would happily say no. My first few years in post-secondary school looked like this: wake up, get ready, go to school, come home, study, and repeat. It wasn’t until my third year at SFU that I realized I needed to change my routine to make the most of my university experience. University is all about new experiences, making connections, discovering new things, and, most importantly, learning things about yourself. What better way to do all these things but to volunteer? It was after I started the co-op program that I learned the importance of volunteerism and not just how it is important to give back to the community, but how to gain meaningful experiences that can be useful when applying for jobs.
The very first volunteer position I applied to was with the Health Peers, who work with the Health Promotion team at SFU’s Health and Counselling. I was looking for a volunteer position to add to my experiences and my resume. I found the Health Peers program aligned with the skills that I needed, such as learning strategies in health promotion for different communites. As a Health Sciences major, this was the perfect position for me. Fast-forwarding to my second semester as a volunteer, a group of health peers started a drop-in session called Chai Chats that welcomed students to talk about different mental health topics from body image to burnout online. It was around this time that a fellow volunteer submitted our outreach idea to the Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses (HM|HC) Summit—a conference to bring students, faculty, staff, and other key stakeholders on campus to collaborate and engage in meaningful conversations about mental health and learn from one another. Spoiler, we were accepted!
I was glad to have the opportunity to present at the Summit because it gave me a chance to gain valuable skills in public speaking (even if it’s virtual). I also got the chance to learn about other campus initiatives that expanded my knowledge in health promotion on different BC campuses.
Fast forward a few weeks and I see that HM|HC is hiring a Health Communications Assistant and I knew I had to apply. The skills that were required for the job were ones that I had just developed as a Health Peer, like interest in mental health education and promotion. Writing the cover letter for this position came easily as I had already become familiar with HM|HC as a presenter for their summit, and aligning my interests and values came naturally. I was fortunate enough to be selected for an interview! The interview itself went great as I was excited to share my background in mental health—thanks to my position as a Health Peer. More importantly, I was able to share that I had presented at their summit (bonus points!) and knew all about HM|HC. To say the least, I left my interview feeling confident.
The next week I was offered the position!
It’s amazing how the smallest decisions can lead to the biggest of opportunities. I’m glad that I stepped out of my comfort zone to seek volunteer positions on campus. My only regret is that I didn’t start sooner.
These are some of the benefits I experienced with volunteering:
Meet new people: Get more involved on campus to meet new people and make new friends!
Develop new skills: A great way to gain new skills is to try to volunteer for different organizations and positions. It helps develop skills and meaningful experiences when job searching.
Develop new interests: Can’t decide what you want to do in the future? Volunteer to find new interests! You’ll never know what you may like unless you try!
Obtain great references: Applying for jobs and graduate programs may require additional references! Your volunteer supervisors can be an option!
Have a fun university experience: Studying on campus is great, but having fun is even better!