Volunteering is one of the quickest and easiest ways to meet new people, learn new skills and advance your career. So, before you say "no" to a volunteer opportunity that you think you don't have time for, consider the learning and career possibilities it may lead you to if you said "yes". For instance, my volunteer work with SFU Volunteer Services and Online Learning Community (OLC) contributed to my successful co-op job offer and placement with SFU Work Integrated Learning.
My successful co-op "career" all started with the OLC two years ago when I volunteered as an Online Community Volunteer Writer. I researched and created articles to support students with their personal and professional skill development. Topics that I wrote on included time management skills, professional attire for the workplace, resume basics and formats, and handshakes (Yes! Handshakes!).
For my first co-op placement at BCNET, these writing pieces became the crucial reason why I was hired. My supervisor stated that many students were not considered for this position because they only knew how to write academically and did not have any experience with the news writing style she was looking for. And what made me stand out from the pool of applicants was the articles I produced for the OLC. The hands-on experience I gained from volunteering with the OLC gave me the edge I needed to secure this co-op position.
Need another example to convince you? I am currently on an eight-month co-op work term with SFU Work Integrated Learning (WIL), partly as a result of my previous volunteer experience with Volunteer Services, one of the four units of WIL. Last summer, I volunteered as the Logistics Director for the Volunteer and Civic Engagement Week to promote volunteerism and to connect students to volunteer opportunities on campus and in the community. However, little did I know I would be working with my future supervisor the following semester as a paid staff.
It was close to the end of my volunteer position when my current supervisor informed us that she was hiring a co-op student for SFU Volunteer Services. Because I was really interested in learning more about Volunteer Services and promoting it to students, I applied for the position. Weeks later, I went for an interview and got the job offer the following week. Did my volunteer experiences at SFU help me secure my co-op job?
The answer would be "yes," according to my supervisor. Not only did she already know what my personality and work habits are like, but she also knew that I had the skills she was looking for when we worked together on the Volunteer and Civic Engagement Week. As well, my OLC work demonstrated that I had the research and writing skills to develop articles for the Volunteer Services ENGAGE blog.
Another important factor that helped me secure my position was my references. I asked my colleague at Co-op to be my reference because I knew she could highlight my qualifications that were relevant to this position. She gave me a glowing reference to my supervisor, complementing that I was someone who takes initiative and is very responsible, which added more credibility to my work habits and qualifications. This would not have been possible if I did not volunteer with the OLC before.
Volunteering definitely helped me come out of my shell to meet new peers and potential employers. My volunteer experiences also contributed significantly to my personal and professional skill development as well as securing my two successful co-op placements. Even though sometimes you may need to sacrifice your personal time, volunteering is definitely an investment for your future that you will not regret. So, start now and get involved and volunteer your way to your dream job!
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