An article about the various skills that you can learn whilst volunteering.
Skills You Can Learn while Volunteering
05 November 2013
What do you think when you hear volunteer work? Some people probably think ‘Hard work with no pay’ or ‘long days with nothing gained’, but as you’re reading this you probably agree with us in thinking that just isn’t the case. You probably also agree with us in thinking that volunteering can make an unbelievable difference to peoples’ lives, but volunteering isn’t a one way street. There is also a whole arsenal of skills you can gain and improve while volunteering and here are just a few of them.
1. Leadership Skills
During volunteer work you can find out what kind of a leader you are, something which can be a real confidence boost in the future when you’re off to university, looking for a first job or trying to gain that promotion you really want. Even if you’re not a natural born leader it’s important to be able to stand up and make your voice heard, and there are plenty of experiences on offer that will help you grow into a stronger, more confident leader. Whether it’s being a sports coach in Port Elizabeth South Africa, or Argentina and drawing on your sports skills or working as a teaching assistant in Nepal, India and using your past experience of school to inspire underprivileged children to learn.
2. Teamwork & relationship skills
Volunteer work is also a great way to show future employers or universities that you are capable of being a real team player and working closely with people, as it shows the ability to build a close working relationship with people from all over the world and is definitely a talking point in interviews. Although we wouldn’t suggest using this as a last ditch attempt to get someone to go out with you, as they may not consider the relationship skills you have built while volunteering to be a real deal breaker, although stranger things have happened. Volunteering also gives you the chance to meet and work with new people from around the world, a skill which is invaluable as the business world develops more and more towards the international stage.
Volunteering abroad is also a great chance for you to grow as a person and learn to look after yourself. The experience of being away from home for the first time can be a bit of a shock, and you’ll probably miss the luxury of your parents doing your laundry. We doubt you’ll miss having your mum constantly checking if you’ve got plenty of sun cream on though! Forgetting the little things, volunteering will also teach you great self-management skills, as you’ll have to make sure you’re ready to get stuck in every day, and show people you can really make a difference by being on a volunteering project. The experience of looking after yourself and managing your time is great if you are going to University after your gap year as it will set you up for life in Halls of Residence. I would also advise offering to help with the cooking while on your travels, as you don’t want to be the one that can’t cook when you get to Uni. My flat mate at University felt pretty silly when she had to ask how to make Super Noodles.
4. Challenge yourself
Although it’s not really a ‘skill’, the ability to set yourself challenges and achieve them is a great thing to be able to do, and volunteering is a great place to start when it comes to setting yourself challenges. Many of our candidates also find that some time out to do volunteer work is the challenge they need after completing their A levels and before going to Uni, and for some people it is the chance for a challenge that won’t come round again. The experience of life in another culture is also something no one should miss out on, even if you aren’t a very confident person as it allows you to gain independence and really get the boost you need. You may think we are being crazy, but volunteer work programmes can help you find yourself and give you the confidence you have been looking for. The boost in confidence of living without your parents will also make the transition to University a whole lot easier.
5. Learn to apply the skills you already have
Finally, volunteering is a brilliant way to find out what you’re true strengths and skills are. If someone asks you ‘what are your key skills?’ the odds are you’ll answer somewhere along the lines of; ‘errrr I duno, not much’. Or even if you do know what your key skills are, if someone pushes you further and asks ‘what will you do with those skills?’ I bet you won’t have much of an answer. This is where volunteering comes in, as it is a chance to explore your skills in a real world environment and apply them to help make a difference. As a result of all this, when you’re sitting in an interview and get asked what your skills are and how they will help you in the job, you’ll know exactly what to say.
So, you there are plenty of things you can and will learn while volunteering abroad, but the most important thing is to have fun on your gap year. The experience and skills are just a bonus. When you are traveling make sure you make the most out of the experience and ask all the questions you feel you want the answer to, don’t be afraid to be yourself and strive to make a change to the community. Just remember to ENJOY YOURSELF, it will be the best time of your life and one you will never forget!
by Charlie Tossell