By Lani Walker
“Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads”
I read this poem about this time every year, sitting by the Christmas tree in my parent’s house. Once I moved out on my own I began to realize how lucky I was. I never thought about what if it was the night before Christmas and I had no home. What if I was homeless or a tornado or hurricane had recently destroyed my home? I would hope someone would volunteer to help. A few years ago I got the opportunity to serve food at a free holiday dinner for the people in my community. It was a fulfilling experience, and helping out that holiday season was also the beginning of my volunteer work as an adult. While in college, my architecture classes have allowed me to help communities by providing free labor and clean up at jobsites, renovating buildings and I even got to design and build a playground, funded by the college to a community in East St. Louis. My time I spent volunteering benefited my soul and my skills as a future architect. As young professionals, volunteering can help us explore career opportunities, expand our professional network, and learn from the diverse community in which we live. We all know how Volunteering can help others, and the feeling you get from helping someone, but today I am going to explain how volunteering can be beneficial to college students like us and hopefully inspire you to start volunteering.
Many educational experiences cannot be taught in a classroom. Volunteering is a great way to learn new skills for your future job. Millard Fuller, creator of Habitat for Humanity and editor of Habitat World Magazine, said that many of his “volunteers often state that they had learned more in a week on the job site [at Habitat for Humanity] than they learned in their entire associate’s degree in construction management.” Career builder.com states that when you go to a job interview, one of the first questions that the employer will ask if you have any work in the industry. Volunteering is a great way to gain experience and enhance your current skills. Caleb Bennett’s book called Volunteering states that “…even if you don’t know what your future job might be, volunteering is a great no-strings-attached way to try out careers and see which one suit you best”. While you are learning new abilities you are building your resume in leadership, teamwork, problem solving and communication-skills that are important in any industry.
Networking is also a significant tool for finding your prospective jobs. Networking is simply ‘knowing people.’ The more people you know in your industry, the better chance you have of getting hired. Charles Rochester book called Volunteering and Society in the 21st Century states that “Volunteering is one of the quickest ways to network successfully because you will be interacting with people of all ages in a semi-professional setting”. If you are studying to work in the healthcare field, for example, you could volunteer at a hospital where you would be working with the professionals and they will hopefully notice your skills and your personal will to help others. This is key to making a respectable name for yourself with the professionals in your community. Also, that volunteering experience just might open the door for your future job.
While becoming a skilled and respected professional is beneficial to your future career, it’s not the only way volunteering can improve your life. Volunteering in your local community is a great way to learn about the diverse society in which we live. You might not think of Carbondale as a diverse community but it is. One day I was walking on campus, listening to the people who passed me, and from the library to Quigley Hall I didn’t hear one word of English spoke. Due to the college, Carbondale is one of the few places in southern Illinois where residents are from all over the globe. Volunteering in the local neighborhoods in Carbondale gives you a chance to work with different groups of people whom you thought you had nothing in common with. Forbes Magazine states that a multicultural workforce enables us to develop the most creative, innovative solutions by combining the ideas from people with different backgrounds and upbringings. Furthermore, when we volunteer and learn about the other cultures in our local society, we are able to accept the differences between us. As Jonathon Mckee’s book called Understanding the 21st Century states, volunteering allows for new understandings between individuals in a society; and peace and tolerance are bred through understanding.
Although volunteering is not a paid position; it is evident that many life skills can be gained from volunteering which money cannot provide. From volunteering you can explore career opportunities, expand your professional network, and learn from the diverse community in which you live. From helping out during a disaster to helping your neighbor rake leaves, volunteering can never be too large or too small of a feat. We are all here at college to change ourselves; to become better people, better students, and better professionals. Volunteering is an easy way to change yourself and your community. As John F Kennedy once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”