Volunteerism – Not Only Essential For Academic Competition
With competition for jobs, graduate studies and professional programs rising, you may feel lacking compared to others. To distinguish your résumé, you can turn to volunteering. But, it is also important to look past all the competition and to truly enjoy the volunteering experience. So, what is so great about volunteering aside from it looking wonderful on your CV?
- You can learn from a diverse group of people.
Volunteering in non-profit or student organizations connects you to a diverse range of people that you probably don’t meet on a regular school day. I’ve met some of my best friends through volunteering. While we have very different personalities, we are able to achieve a common goal for a common cause. That is what I like most about volunteering: doors open for me to interact with people of different backgrounds, expertise, and ideas. These interactions challenge my perspectives and stretch my comfort zone, but in a way that I can adjust to and handle. I can honestly say that my post-secondary experience has been much more rewarding with volunteering on the side.
While students in one faculty often stick with their group of faculty friends, that has not the case for me. When I got involved with the University of Alberta’s Students’ Union elections, I made a ton of wonderful friends who are Political Science majors. After working alongside them for a month, I learned about the wonderful diversity between science and arts students. As a science student, I tend to think technically. However, my new friends challenged me to think outside the box; they often asked questions that encouraged me to think critically. Although it was difficult and I felt out of place initially, I learned to embrace the differences and incorporated their way of thinking. Now my social circle is expanding drastically with friends from various faculties. By talking to friends from different faculties, I can gather varying perspectives and thoughts on a particular issue and learn from them.
- You feel empowered.
You feel great when you are volunteering for a cause that you are passionate about! You may not instantly know which organization suits you, but it is completely fine to explore various options until you find the right fit. Try out whatever seems appealing to you. You have tons of time and it’s never too late to get involved. Ultimately, the most important thing is that you have found THE cause- one that makes you ecstatic, one that makes you gush when you share your experiences with your peers and loved ones. Try to have an open mind on that search!
My favorite cause is the Canadian Red Cross. But, when I first began to get involved with the Canadian Red Cross, I didn’t know how this social justice oriented group would align with my interests. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that the Canadian Red Cross was opening my mind to new perspectives on health. It wasn’t long before I fell in love with this group. By seeing things through different lenses, I can better understand, and tackle complex issues within our community. Health is a universal issue, that can be extremely controversial. We cannot perceive and understand health through one perspective. These insights are just one of the reasons that I am glad that I tried something different; I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to volunteer at the Canadian Red Cross.
- You can become a true leader.
Students often ask me to mentor them on leadership. Ironically, I don’t believe that leadership is a subject that one can be mentored in. To learn to become a true leader, you have to utilize your own prior experiences, forge your own path and make a few mistakes. Volunteering is one way to learn to become a leader. My advice is to find a challenging opportunity that pushes you out of your comfort zone. Personal growth and leadership development will occur, as long as you are not daunted by mistakes and potential failure.
- You will feel happier.
When I first entered university, I was determined to make my undergraduate career more memorable than just hitting textbooks and cramming all day and night. I joined a bunch of organizations and non-profits off campus that I was passionate about. As the semesters went by, I felt much more accomplished and happier. Yes, getting an A+ in a class makes me happy too but helping my community brings me a different type of joy. This is a positive feeling that doesn’t fade, no matter what. As a result, I was able to better manage my stress. The experiences that I gained from volunteering allowed me to question whether certain things really did bother me. Most of the time, what I considered to be stressful could be resolved. I can proudly say that I am one happy student!
While I agree that academics are important, I hope that you will look at volunteerism as an enjoyable opportunity to learn more about yourself and others, rather than just as a booster to surpass your competitors. Be eager to learn, get empowered, and grow! I also hope that every time you skim through your résumé and come across a volunteer experience, good memories will be recalled and an instant smile will appear on your face!