For National Student Volunteer Week (NSVW) 2014, we’ll be publishing a series of posts answering that perennial question – why should I volunteer?
Today’s blog is all about that intangible but essential activity – Networking. Typically seen as an exercise in corporate career-ladder climbing, networking is often treated with suspicion amongst those with more altruistic objectives but the value of building a network through, or for volunteering is huge.
Every state in Australia has a state-wide Volunteer ‘Hub’ – Volunteering Queensland/Victoria/Tasmania etc. bring together news, opportunities, research and promotional materials for volunteers and volunteer organisations, ensuring the word gets spread as far as possible. Queensland have even gone that step further in building a nationwide network through organising National Student Volunteer Week, which of course we are celebrating this week. Even on a more local level, most towns will have a peak body for volunteering – in Ballarat, United Way run the volunteer role search engine, as well as supporting local organisations with marketing their roles, and running the volunteer managers network (amongst many other things). Through these ‘Hubs’, you as an an individual can also benefit from this extended network – volunteering with one organisation opens doors to many other opportunities when organisations work together.
On a personal level, many of the people you meet whilst volunteering will be invaluable additions to your personal and professional networks. Many volunteer organisations tend to be fairly small-scale, and non-hierarchical – you may be working on a daily basis with senior managers in the organisation. Often, CEOs, CFOs etc of charities have a lot of previous experience in larger, corporate settings – not only can you learn form their expertise, but again, they can open doors to new opportunities, both within volunteering and thinking about your career. The people who work for volunteer organisations by their nature tend to be willing to help other people, and so in your personal life as well your volunteer network can help you get things done. Of course, networking is not all about taking, and so make sure that you give a little as well – if you’re volunteering with someone who may need a hand with something, some information or a key contact that you have – do it!
For NSVW, we’re running a couple of events which can help volunteers build their networks. On Monday, we hosted our annual Volunteer Expo in Ballarat and Gippsland, as well as an online version. Over 40 organisations took part in the ‘physical’ Expos, and several more in the ‘Virtual’ one, representing a huge range of different sectors including sports, politics, welfare and engineering. Students were encouraged to visit at least 6 stalls and find out what they had to offer, so getting a broad representation of what is available. On Wednesday, we have a talk specifically for Visual Arts students about how they can use their artistic powers to help the community, and join local artist networks.
Have you got a personal story of how you improved your network through volunteering? Let us know!