Using Volunteering to Find Paid Work

I haven’t posted for several days, because I’ve been sick with what is either a chest infection (hoping) or whooping cough (hopefully not). After finally going to the doctor yesterday, I’ve been on antibiotics and recovering much faster. Although I prefer not to take antibiotics, I have to admit that this time round, they’ve really sped up the recovery.

Anyway, today I’d like to relate one of my own experiences of how volunteering can open up opportunities for paid work.

One of the amateur skills I’ve developed since high school is web design. I used to create fansites in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fandom – including a fanart site, general fansite, awards site etc. Through that, I taught myself basic HTML, then CSS, then a bit of PHP, and now can use jquery to do neat things.

Eventually, I put those skills to use through volunteering. One of the first volunteering gigs I got was for the National Parks Association of NSW.

  • 2007: volunteered to create Great Australian Bushwalk website for the NPA.
  • 2008: contacted again by NPA to create Bioblitz website.
  • 2008: someone I worked with at the NPA also happened to work for an events management company – and asked me to work (paid) on a project for that company!
  • Present: I am still working for that events management company.

There are many hidden benefits of volunteering, which I think not enough people take advantage of.

For example, volunteering can sharpen your skills. Without volunteering, I wouldn’t have been pushed to learn new website coding methods. I wouldn’t have learnt how to create rotation banners and centered designs. In particular, I am in NO WAY a professional web designer – I have no qualifications (I did a Law/Arts in Communication degree), and can only offer my experience and willingness to learn. Through volunteering, I’ve learnt new skills which I wouldn’t have given time to, because I wouldn’t have needed them (in my ordinary studies and paid work). As a result, these past 5 years have been me:

  • Developing my web design skills – through volunteering and a little paid work
  • Growing my legal knowledge – through university studies
  • Developing my legal experience – through part time work

In another way, volunteering builds up your contacts base. If people are happy with your volunteer work (since, you’re unpaid – usually they’re happy!), they’re likely to call you up again when they have another task they want your on (which isn’t unpaid). They can refer you to new clients or gigs, which you might not have heard about through word of mouth.

Another thing is that volunteering makes your resume interesting. Volunteering can be a hobby! It shows civic responsibility and pride! It shows employers that you care and that you have non-monetary interests! During the graduate applications and interviews in 2010, I found many interviewers would often ask me about my web design work or my Arts in Communication degree – most weren’t interested in my law degree or paralegal work experience. They wanted something interesting, something that they didn’t know about or hadn’t done themselves! It makes a great opening topic and shows your interests – perhaps you care about animals, the environment, poverty, breast cancer etc.

There are many hidden benefits to volunteering – and I strongly encourage everyone to discover them! 🙂

In a side news, I’ve begun knitting my Wrap for Love wrap:

It’s taking quite a while, because the wool is thing, the needles are thin, and it needs to be 10×10 inches.


2 Comments to “Using Volunteering to Find Paid Work”

  1. You have some excellent things to say about volunteering here. Many people have a mindset that volunteering should not be about yourself because then it’s not done with a truly altruistic motivation. But is there ever a completely altruistic motivation? Recognizing the benefits you get from volunteering makes you a happier and more effective volunteer, which increases your output. It’s a win-win.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks Lacy – I definitely agree! I find the best volunteering relationships you can have with an organisation is where (at the outset) they say what they want to gain out of this partnership, and you say what you want to gain out of it too.

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