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Volunteering work before job

What kind of voluntary work should you do? That depends on your skills, experiences and interests. In our country it is easy to find a match between those and the huge needs around us

Dear Dadu
I haven’t been able to find a job, and I am getting bored as I have nothing useful to do outside the house! Should I consider becoming a volunteer in some organization? If so, how do I start and for what sort of organization should I volunteer?

Dear Alka,
Oh, you should certainly consider being a volunteer!  In fact, some people volunteer alongside preparing for IAS/ IFS/ Central Services/ State Services exams, or indeed alongside their studies.

Quite apart from the good that might be accomplished through your work as a volunteer (and how good it would make you feel), it would extend your circle of friends and acquaintances, and can help you develop new skills.


What kind of voluntary work should you do? That depends on your skills, experiences and interests. In our country it is easy to find a match between those and the huge needs around us.

Once you have identified the field in which you would like to do voluntary work, you could either strike out on your own, or you could work with an organization.

Being a volunteer on your own can be good if you are the sort of person who likes pioneering things – for example, you could teach poor children; or you could identify and try and deal with other needs in your neighbourhood – from helping to clear the streets, to fighting bribery, to organizing a neighbourhood watch (against thieves).

However, volunteering on your own has the danger that you may find yourself reinventing the wheel, as you won’t have anyone with experience in that field to whom you can turn for advice.  Moreover, we all have moments when we feel discouraged or even depressed, and we need, at those times, help not only from friends and relatives but more particularly from those who understand our work-situation.

So, whatever the field in which you want to volunteer, I would encourage you to look for an organization that works in that field – nowadays, a simple search on the internet will help you find the largest or the nearest organization of almost every stripe in almost any field.

How to approach the organization concerned?  It is always best to go through people you know.  But whether or not you know anyone through whom you can approach the organization, find out all you can about it through the internet, and by asking people you know.

If the organization’s usual procedure for new applicants who wish to be volunteers is not clear from their website, then there is a need right there – and you could perhaps yourself work with the organization to make that clear on the internet. If that kind of internet-related work is not within your skill-set, you might be able to help find someone who can deal with that need.

In any case, once you have found out all you can from the internet and from personal enquiries, either comply with the stated procedure for new volunteers, or simply ring them and try to find out what the process is to be integrated as a volunteer in their work.

Most organizations will want to meet you personally so that they can assess how you can best help them, and indeed whether you are at all suitable for their organization as a volunteer.  You should also make clear whether there are specific things you would like to do for the organization or whether you are ready to do anything that needs to be done.

Though it is possible to have a regular part-time commitment (some organizations may be happy to have you volunteer as little as once every three or four weeks), I would encourage you to consider offering to work half-time (five half-days a week), as that is what is probably best in your situation: that leaves you with half a day each week in which to look for work or to learn other skills.

Once you are accepted as a potential volunteer, but before you begin to actually work as a volunteer, most organizations will require you to have at least some minimum briefing or orientation, so that you learn more about the organization, about the people who will be your colleagues, and about the work which you will do.

The Bible says “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might”.  That is not a bad motto for a volunteer.  Let your enthusiasm and energy make up for whatever you lack in terms of skills and experience, while being ready to learn from the experience of the organization.  I am sure that you will find it very fulfilling to be a volunteer.

Of course, some people will think that you are strange because you work without payment.  But remember that whether or not you get paid for working is less important than living a worthwhile life, and life certainly is not worthwhile if you are sitting at home getting bored!

One last point: working as a volunteer in an organization also makes your CV or biodata more attractive to employers, and gives you at least one more person who can act as a referee for any job application – and, usually, the most up-to-date reference is the one that is the most valuable for any employer.



Published in the June 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine

About The Author


“Dadu” is an avuncular Indian gentleman who has lived and worked both in India and overseas in the academic, business and cultural fields. He welcomes your questions on broad social, economic and cultural issues

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