Volunteering opportunities: Where to Look

If you have just started university and want to find out what all this ‘volunteering’ stuff is about, or you are already a seasoned volunteer and want to expand your repertoire, than this post is for you!

For those of you unfamiliar with volunteering, it basically involves willingly providing your services to an event, charity or organisation for no payment. It has a tonne of fantastic benefits, for both you and those you are helping!

Why volunteer?

If I be honest for a moment here, when I first began volunteering (I helped out at a local Vinnies store during my gap year) I did so under the pretence that it would build my resume.

And sure, volunteering certainly does that – the volunteer part of your resume is as important as your employment history!

But I found that I began to enjoy volunteering. You develop some great skills, meet fabulous people, and you are often helping out others in need.

I have also found volunteering to be vastly beneficial in helping me to tailor my goals and steer myself towards further study and career paths.

One of my volunteering gigs involved approaching people in a troubling situation and asking them if they needed any help. I found that this did not suit my awkward personality type, so I decided that being a Psychologist was probably not the best job for me!

But where do you find all these opportunities? Let me outline a few places to start:

University of Melbourne Student Union:

Unimelb is a great place to try your hand out at some general volunteering skills. UMSU usually puts call outs for volunteers on their website, as well as in their weekly newsletter and on their facebook page.

There is a range of options throughout the year, including being an O-Week Host, Peer Mentor, helping out at the Exam Support Stall, Open Day, Destination Melbourne and VCE Summer School.

Application processes may differ from position to position, but generally it is an online form, followed by a group interview and a training day.

You get to meet some great people, find out a bit more about how the uni runs, and maybe score a free lunch!

Clubs, Collectives & Societies at University:

You mean clubs aren’t just solely about free food?

Yup, becoming a part of a club committee can actually look pretty great on your resume, and you can develop great skills. This particularly would apply if you take on a position of communications, secretary, or events coordinator.

The Welfare Collective at UMSU runs a weekly meeting on Fridays, where you can put your name down to help with the free breakfast and other campaigns to support students. The autonomous collectives of UMSU – such as Wom*ns, Queer, Disabilities and Indigenous – also often need volunteers for events and campaigns.

University Careers:

The Unimelb careers site has a page where internships and volunteer opportunities are advertised. Furthermore, you can talk to someone in the Careers department who might be able to point you in the right direction about finding the right volunteering position for you!

Volunteering Directory Websites:

Sites such as this and this list opportunities available in a wide variety of organisations. You can filter based upon your interests.

Photo: Quickmeme
Photo: Quickmeme

Search Online:

Most organisations, NGOs and not-for-profits will have a volunteering page on their website. If you have a particular one in mind, you can google them specifically.

However, you can just as easily search based upon what you are looking for. For instance, I normally google something along the lines of ‘criminology volunteer melbourne’, and will get quite a few hits back for different organisations.

Some organisations will have specific forms online, or will be looking to fill a certain position. Sometimes these can be as competitive as jobs! Other times, they might only have a general expression of interest.

Don’t get disheartened if you don’t hear back – they might get thousands of applications, or might not be looking for someone right now!

Just Ask!

If there is a particular organisation you want to get some experience with, but there is nothing on their website about volunteering, send them an email anyway!

They will have a general email who you can contact. Or if you are ambitious enough, give them a call! Many small NGOs or not-for-profits love it when people lend them a hand, even if it is just for a one off event.

So there you have it! If you have any questions or tips for first time volunteers, let us know in the comments below.

Happy volunteering!

– Reanna.

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