Aine Monk argues that volunteering is not only a greatly rewarding experience, but it is also an excellent addition to any CV.
It cannot be denied that there is much which can be learned and gained from voluntary work. The individual learns more about themselves, while developing new skills and improving on existing talents and skills, whilst the people they assist gain companionship, an extra set of hands in the organisation, someone with new ideas and a different and fresh perspective.
There really is no downside to voluntary work of any kind, be it for a short period of time in your local community, or for an extended period of time whilst working on a long-term project or towards a goal.
The lack of income from such work should not be viewed as a negative, but more as a positive, allowing you to concentrate on offering help to those around you, rather than calculating your potential bank balance each week.
Experience is everything when it comes to securing employment, or indeed an internship. Voluntary work offers the chance to gain experience and is one of the best, most admirable things to proudly place in your CV and cover letter. After being offered a paid internship this summer, I for one fully believe in the benefits of voluntary work.
In terms of interviews for potential jobs, employers often highlight voluntary work and are eager to discuss it with candidates. This is due to the fact that it shows initiative and selflessness, as well as an eagerness to work and try new things. It heightens your chances of a job offer as you appear diligent and perhaps a people person. I am so grateful for the opportunities that have arisen from my completion of various voluntary work.
My first bout of volunteering was at the end of my first year of secondary school, when a group of friends helped out with a weekly art class for the elderly in the Community Services Centre in Drogheda. Chatting to the participants gave me a new perspective on life as I visited once a week during the summer holidays.
Having attended summer camps run by the HSÉ when I was younger, I was asked if I would like to help out with the camps when I was around 14 or 15. It was great to help children with disabilities as I felt as if I could relate to them and learned a lot about myself too. I had a really enjoyable time, participating in activities such as baking and playing sports over the duration of a fortnight.
The longest bout of voluntary work I have completed to date was in the youth café in the Drogheda branch of the Irish Wheelchair Association for a few years. I have to admit that I had such good fun hanging out with people my age who had various disabilities. I gained a new perspective on life and am so grateful for the opportunity. It is through my work here each Saturday that I was offered to chance to sit on Louth Comhairle na nÒg for two years.
Many of you may think it is challenging to take on voluntary work whilst studying at third-level, but you would be amazed at how accessible it really is.
Always read the random emails you receive from lecturers and staff employed at the college/university you attend. There are endless opportunities both on campus and in the surrounding areas.
There is something to suit each and every student, from paired reading with local schoolchildren, to drama groups for those with disabilities. The emergence of youth cafés and clubs works to your advantage as they are always seeking to better the services they offer and you could be a valuable asset to their organisation.
DCU holds a volunteering fair each year where its students can discover how to get involved and the jobs out there both at home and abroad. If you are a student in Trinity, why not get involved with the Student2Student peer support programme and help fellow students who may be struggling to settle in, or just need a good chat.
Another great way to get involved is by joining the Raising and Giving Society of your college or university. There are many wonderful incentives set up and run by each of these societies, for example RAG Rhythms and Ballymunch which are both run by members in DCU. RAG Rhythms offers musically-talented students the chance to teach music to local children and young people and looks superb on your CV.
Other ways to get involved include taking part in the ongoing activities run by Saint Vincent de Paul both within colleges and universities as well as in the local community.
Aiding soup-runs are both a great way to meet new people and to actually see for yourself the positive impact you are having on the lives of others.
Why not avoid the possibility of feeling as if you're missing out whilst scrolling through endless holiday statuses and photos on Facebook and spice up your summer and CV by giving back to the community and volunteering.