4 guidelines for choosing the best organisation for you
1. Find out as much as possible about the organisations you might work for and what you will be able to do while you are there.
2. Set clear goals for what you want to accomplish.
3. Figure out if the experiences you get will help you move towards the career you desire.
4. Make sure you have the time and finances to spend time volunteering. Perhaps you only have a few hours a week. Don’t over-extend yourself.
Although volunteering is a great way to build up your experience and pave the way to the career you desire, all volunteer opportunities are not the same and you should be mindful of the decisions you make about how you will spend your time.
This issue of Lift is filled with examples of people who have had great volunteering experiences, but some volunteer work can be frustrating. “I volunteered for a month as a marketer for one company and all I got was wasted time, energy and inspiration,” said Char Samorn, an English student at Norton University. “I felt like my volunteer work was contradictory to what I learned.”
So how can you choose a volunteering opportunity that will benefit you and keep you interested?
Seap Sinet, youth empowerment assistant at Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP), said students should find out if their own interests and skills are appropriate for a particular organisation.
“You can also use volunteering as an opportunity to [improve] your negative points before you enter the work force,” she said.
“If a person is getting a bachelors degree in law and their volunteer experience is related, they will find it easy to secure a job in the law field,” said Chhoun Borith, director of Khmer Youth and Social Development (KYSD).
Vat Sreyvoat, a senior recruitment consultant at Great Alliances, a human resources agency, added that a company often prefers a varied background in real world experience when they are looking at potential employees.
“If Mr A has never studied accounting, but he is active and skillful during volunteering, he may be selected over someone who has studied accounting but has no real world work experience,” she said, adding that most companies value staff who work well over those who just have a degree.
It can be difficult to balance studying, work and volunteering, but if you and the organisation you are working with are flexible, you will ultimately benefit from the experience.
“Students must control their own schedule. If they manage their time well it can be a great chance to use the things you have learned in the classroom,” Seap Sinet said.
However, just volunteering is not enough; you must make an effort to get challenging real-world experience, according to KYSD’s Chhoun Borith. “Youth should be eager to learn new things, which means they have to interact well, not just wait to be assigned or pushed to do a task.”
Some organisations promise to provide interesting work to volunteers, but when they arrive, they are required to do things that don’t require them to use their brain at all, and therefore the volunteer gets very little benefit from their participation.
Khun Sovong, a junior at the National University of Management who used to work as a volunteer, said that in the first couple of weeks he felt so stressed and exhausted because he was doing menial tasks such as arranging meetings, booking tickets and making coffee. “I was asked to do all of the things no one else wanted to do,” Khun Sovong said, adding that he wanted to volunteer in order to improve his skills in his area of study, not engage in meaningless activities.
Khun Sovong thought about quitting, but instead decided to find work around the organisation that would give him new challenges. “Everyone should consider their decision before they quit doing something. Opportunity happens once in a lifetime, so if you are given a chance to do something, you should grab it,” he advised.
While you should think about what organisation fits you the best; in the end, your experience as a volunteer will depend on what you make of it. Don’t sit back and hope for the best; reach out and show the people around you what you can do!