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The Joy of Volunteering Part 5 — Getting Even More from Volunteering
June 22, 2017

View the video transcript in English [PDF 185kB].

By Mimshach Obioha, 2016 Mandela Washington Fellow, and Celestina Obiekea, YALI Regional Leadership Center West Africa–Accra Participant

While you are volunteering, be honest about your skills and experiences. One of the best things you can do for yourself during your period of volunteering is to be completely honest about your skills, abilities and experiences. What you already know you can apply and build on; what you do not know you can learn — but this can only happen when you are honest to both yourself and your employers and superiors.

Keep track of everything you learn. This is always our favourite part of any volunteer experience. It is absolutely important that you keep track of everything you learn, whether it is related to the job or not. One thing we always tell people is that every experience counts and no knowledge is ever a waste! Some of the knowledge and information you get may not be immediately useful to you, but someday that knowledge may just land you a new job or save your existing one!

Using one of us as an example: While I was in boarding school, during the holidays, I would help out at my aunt’s bar, where some nights I had to attend to an average of 30–50 tired, grumpy and sometimes angry men per night. There were days I was tempted to never go back, but today I can confidently say that was probably one of the best out-of-classroom learning experience I have had so far — my ability to manage people and network efficiently was born out of that experience.

Give on-the-spot feedback about your experiences. Every communication or learning process is usually a loop, and for that process to be complete there needs to be some kind of feedback into the process or system. You are not just there to learn or gain experience, you are also there to contribute. You may want to tell people what they are doing well, how the experience is helping you, or you may have ideas about how things can be done better — SHARE!!! By sharing, not only do you show appreciation, but you also show yourself to be invaluable and improve your chances of getting hired or getting an excellent recommendation.

Network excellently. Make new friends. Every interaction should be seen as an opportunity to make a new acquaintance and learn something new.

Ask questions about anything — just make sure your questions are smart and answerable.

After every volunteering experience, it is important to evaluate. A good way to do this is by using your goals and objectives to measure how much you accomplished. For instance, if your goal at the beginning was to learn a new skill, ask yourself what new skill you have learnt, what is the importance of this skill to your future endeavours, etc. Evaluation not only gives you a chance to measure your progress, but also gives you a chance to decide on new goals and objectives as well as map out strategies for achieving them.

Apply all you have learnt. After all is said and done, you have either learnt a new skill or gained a new experience, all to one aim — so you can apply it. Practice all that you have learnt and open yourself up to another learning experience.

Keep in touch. Ensure that your relationship with the people you met during your volunteer experience does not end with that experience. Keep in touch with as many of such acquaintances as possible — you may just get a tip for an upcoming vacancy from one of them, or it may be the beginning of a lifelong friendship.